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Major Theme/Main Theme
The main theme of the novel is simplistic: the earth is good. Pearl emphasizes how mother earth can provide sustenance and wealth to any person. Wang farms the land, and the earth yields food in return. Because he respects the land, he tends it carefully, and the earth begins to produce profits for him. With his profits, Wang keeps buying more and more land until it makes him a wealthy man. Pearl S. Buck wants the reader to realize that the earth is like our mother, to be respected and revered.
The minor theme is that time marches onward, bringing many changes in customs and traditions. In the novel there is a great difference in the thinking between the newer generation, symbolized by Wang's children, and the older generation, symbolized by Wang himself. In the novel, Wang's children desert the land, unlike their father who is sustained his whole life by the good earth. The practices of feet binding and concubines fade away, and modern dress and marriage replace the old ways.
The mood of the novel is serious, and the tone is practical, both of which fit the purpose of the book. Pearl Buck portrays the development of Wang from a poor farmer to a wealthy landowner. Along the way, he must overcome various hurdles. By living simply and close to the earth, Wang succeeds. Through Wang, the author is delivering a serious message; like her main character, all people need to respect and protect the good earth.