...family, friends, home and other tidbits of a blessed life

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Good Earth Tablescape

Let's Dish about the Good Earth!
Not Earth Day, I think I got off track here, but I was thinking Pearl S. Buck, who spent many years in China and who wrote frequently on the topic of China.
The notes from book are from http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/goodearth/summary.html - Spark Notes.

Wang Lung is a poor young farmer in rural, turn-of-the-century China. During the time in which the novel takes place, Chinese society is showing signs of modernization while remaining deeply connected to ancient traditions and customs. 

 When Wang Lung reaches a marriageable age, his father approaches the powerful local Hwang family to ask if they have a spare slave who could marry his son. The Hwangs agree to sell Wang a 20-year-old slave named O-lan, who becomes his wife. O-lan and Wang Lung are pleased with each other, although they exchange few words and although Wang is initially disappointed that O-lan does not have bound feet.

Together, Wang Lung and O-lan cultivate a bountiful and profitable harvest from their land. O-lan becomes pregnant, and Wang Lung is overjoyed when O-lan’s first child is a son. Meanwhile, the powerful Hwang family lives decadently—the husband is obsessed with women, and the wife is an opium addict.

 Because of their costly habits, the Hwangs fall on hard times, and Wang Lung is able to purchase a piece of their fertile rice land. He enjoys another profitable harvest, and O-lan gives birth to another son. 

Wang Lung’s new wealth catches the attention of his greedy, lazy uncle. Custom dictates that Wang Lung must show the utmost respect to members of the older generation, especially relatives, so he is forced to loan his uncle money despite knowing that the money will be wasted on drinking and gambling. The Hwang family’s finances continue to falter, and the Hwangs sell another tract of land to Wang Lung.

After O-lan gives birth to a daughter, a terrible famine settles on the land. In the midst of this crisis, O-lan gives birth to another daughter. She strangles the second girl because there is not enough food to feed the baby and the rest of the family. 

Wang Lung is forced to take his family to a southern city for the winter. There, O-lan and the children beg while Wang Lung earns money by transporting people in a rented rickshaw. They earn just enough money to eat. Wang Lung begins to despair of ever making enough money to return to his land. He and O-lan briefly consider selling their surviving daughter as a slave. 

Eventually, a group of poor and desperate people ransacks a rich man’s home, and Wang Lung and O-lan join them. Wang Lung steals a pile of gold coins. With this new wealth, he moves the family back home and purchases a new ox and some seeds.

 O-lan had stolen some jewels during the looting. Wang Lung allows her to keep two small pearls, but he takes the rest and hurries to buy three hundred acres of Old Master Hwang’s land. O-lan gives birth to twins shortly thereafter. The couple realizes that their oldest daughter is severely retarded, but Wang Lung loves the child dearly.

 Wang Lung hires laborers to plant and harvest his land. He enjoys several years of profitable harvests and becomes a rich man. When a flood forces him to be idle, he begins to feel restless and bored. He finds fault with O-lan’s appearance and cruelly criticizes her for having big feet.

He becomes obsessed with Lotus, a beautiful, delicate prostitute with bound feet. Eventually, he purchases Lotus to be his concubine. When O-lan becomes terminally ill, Wang Lung regrets his cruel words and comes to appreciate everything his wife has done for him. 

 Meanwhile, to lessen the demands of his uncle and his uncle’s wife, who have moved their family into his house and continued to exploit his wealth, he tricks them into becoming opium addicts. Eventually, Wang Lung rents the Hwangs’ house and moves into it with his family, leaving his own house to his uncle’s family.

After O-lan’s death, Wang Lung’s sons begin to rebel against his plans for their life. They do not want to work as farmers and do not have his devotion to the land. Furthermore, his first and second sons often argue over money, and their wives develop an intense animosity toward one another.

  In his old age, Wang Lung takes a young slave, Pear Blossom, as a concubine. She promises to care for his retarded daughter after his death. In time, Wang Lung is surrounded by grandchildren, but he is also surrounded by petty family disagreements. 

By the end of the novel, despite Wang’s passionate dissent, his sons plan to sell the family land and divide the money among themselves, signaling their final break with the land that made them wealthy.

The overarching theme of The Good Earth is the nourishing power of the land.

The Good Earth - Pearl S. Buck 1931
Tablecloth - Made by Moi
Napkins - very old
Brass chargers - eons old themselves
Plates - Midnight Trellis plates by Home Essentials and Beyond also used HERE and HERE
Bowls - Waechtersbach
Flatware - Siam, gift from mom-in-law
Teapot and cups - from mom-in-law
Chopsticks and rests - JCPenney
Center stand - GardenRidge, Dallas
Center bowl - Made in Portugal - Horchow's

 Please help take care of our earth, it is a good earth!  Linking up with Cuisine Kathleen's Let's Dish party on Wednesday evening. Also linking to Susan's Tablescape Thursday party on Thursday.. Cya there!
Thank you to all my faithful readers and followers. Seeing your comments makes my day.. thank you so much!


Alycia Nichols said...

Oh, good grief! The plot of that book puts "The Real Housewives of Orange County" and "Peyton Place" to shame!!! That's a whole lot of crazy goin' on there! I got so intrigued with the story that I forgot to look at the photos. Had to go back to the top!!! Gorgeous setting, Marlis! The soothing nature of your table is needed right now after the dreaded Tax Day! The pops of red infuse fun and life into it! I must make that fabulous flatware my own!!!!!!! The tip ends are magnificent!!! GREAT interpretation of the theme!

Babs said...

Marlis, I enjoyed your synopsis of the Good Earth and the lovely tablescape to go with the book. The center bowl is so beautiful and the red color perfect for your theme. I've never read this classic. Thanks for sharing it.

Barbara F. said...

I thought of this book yesterday! So funny. Now I am craving Chinese food. Beautiful table as always, Marlis. xo

Kuby said...

I loved that book and read it in high school. So sad about the bound feet and the pain those girls went through. I love your Asian table. Just spectacular.

Scribbler said...

I read that book so long ago, I had forgotten most of it.

I think Alycia nailed it -- it was pretty much a soap opera which could be right at home on TV today!

I too had to go back and look at the table a couple of times. Really pretty! And clever.

PAT said...

Thanks so much for this Marlis. I could only remember snippets of the book. A powerful book that I remember reading so long ago.
I could not wait to see how you put together a table with the book as back drop. The table is beautiful and oh so creative!

kitty said...

I thought of the book, too. I read it long ago in high school and loved it. I loved your Asian table.

Aledia said...

Wow! What a story...your tablescape is just as pretty as always, you have some really beautiful dishes and I always look forward to seeing your post's!

Have a wonderful evening my friend...


Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing the book. Lovely set.

Mary said...

Marlis~ Thanks for the synopsis, it's been ages since I read the book. I'm with Alycia~ I got so caught up in the story again I totally missed all your wonderful table details~ the perfect partner to a powerful story!

Linda @ A La Carte said...

Beautiful table! I also thought of Pearl S Buck and so glad you did this theme! Hugs, Linda

Entertaining Women said...

Well, I was a day late and a dollar short. I had plotted a Pearl S. Buck, IT'S A GOOD EARTH tables cape, too, but you scooped the idea, so I decided to go a different direction. Love the oriental touches and revisiting the poignant saga. I first read it as a child...need to go back and read it again...sure that the layers would be even more special from the perspective of my own life journey. Great design! Cherry Kay


Amazing! I love all your Good Earth Day elements you used for this fabulous tablescape. I have a soft spot for Orinetal elements and of course, dishes. I'm loving the gorgeous center bowl too. I'd love to get this book and read it. Hope you come over and visit me. I'm at Kathleen's too. Hugs,

Linda (More Fun Less Laundry) said...

Hi Marlis, I was so caught up in remembering the story of The Good Earth in your narration that I had to go back to see the table setting, which is beautiful. I was able to visit Pearl Buck's home in Pennsylvania and it was so interesting to hear about her life, first as a child of a missionary and then as a very influential person. I always find it so painful to think of the lives of the women and young girls in China. I fear though that much suffering still takes place there and pray for relief for all. This was such a wonderful post. Linda

A Cottage in the Clouds said...

Well done! It's been a loooooong time since I read The Good Earth. Your synopsis was great. Love all your beautiful Asian things. Super-creative as usual!

Texas Tea Party said...

Beautiful chinese tablescape inspired by the book The Good Earth! I love you telling the story. The photos are very dramatic with the lighting. I also like the idea of this story along with Earth Day! Pam

Sarah said...

Marlis, thank you for this beautiful post. It's been years since I read this book and your gorgeous details have brought it back to my mind's eye. This is a fabulous post and perfect for Earth Day.

Donna@Conghaile Cottage said...

So Beautifully done Marlis,
I MUST READ this book!!! AND your tablescaping along with the storyline was masterfully done! LOVED EVERYTHING!!!
I LOVE,LOVE,LOVE that teapot and cups...
Thank you for a new book to add to my LIST OF "MUST HAVES"!
Have a wonderful week,
Big Hugs,

xinex said...

Great post, Marlis, but what a depressing story. You have beautiful asian stuff that went well with the book....Christine

allisamazing said...

What a great idea - to base your tablescape on the book - and it looks wonderful!

Debbie@Mountain Breaths said...

Marlis, the teapot and cups are lovely. What a great post for Earth Day!

Linda said...

Wonderful post about the book, "The Good Earth" and your tablescape is lovely. Asian design is very calming and I love Chinese food.
Thanks for sharing this special story.

Blondie's Journal said...

I am so inspired to read this book...I don't know why I haven't, it was on my mother's bookshelves for ages. Love your elegant table. Wonderful theme for Earth Day!


Barbara said...

Hello, Marlis! I so enjoyed reading about "The Good Earth". It has been so many years since I have read it and it was wonderful to remember it through your words and pictures. I have always remembered something about not wasting a single grain of rice that I believe was from that book. Your table setting is beautiful! I love the colors. I have the same red bowls - so versatile. Happy Earth Day to you!

Robin said...

Quite the drama with that story! You have some lovely Asian things and they make a lovely table.

Robin Flies South

Diane said...

It has been many years, since I read that book. I especially remember the birth scene in the field - ouch!
You did a beautiful blog and I really appreciated the work that went into it - thank you for sharing!

ellen b. said...

What a wonderful creative interpretation of Kathleen's theme this week! You really opened up a literary world to us with a tabelscape to illustrate it. Very nice...

Jacqueline~Cabin and Cottage said...

You did say GOOD Earth, right? Haha! I remember the old film. You have set a lovely exotic table to go with it. It makes me ravenous for dim-sum!

Denise said...

Gosh! I haven't read that book since high school. I wonder if it's ever assigned anymore.

Your table is beautiful. You have such nice pieces to create just the right mood.

Marigene said...

Loved your post...and table!

Mid-Atlantic Martha said...

Love your tablescape AND your book review. What lovely dishes and flatware.

Maria said...

A truly beautiful post! I had to go back a couple of times so I could catch it all. It's been a while since I read this classic, so the refresher was perfect! And, as always, your tablescape is so appropriate! Hugs!

Rakesh said...

good thoughts, really an appreciated. Am doing business at Furniture in McAllen. We will meet soon.

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

It has been many years since I've read The Good Earth. Thank you so much for the synopsis as I had forgotten so much. Your table matches the scenery in my mind perfectly :)

Kathleen said...

Marlis, you did a fabulous job with this! Very scholarly! Your Asian pieces are so lovely, very different too!
The table and the story went along seamlessly! This teacher gives you an A!
Thanks so much for joining Let's Dish!
Next month is a tribute to Mom. Set the table with something of hers, or her fave flower or color! Should be fun!

Fifi Flowers said...

AMAZING stemware!

Diann said...

How fun is this table! you used such unique and interesting pieces here. i love that!


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