Pearl S. Buck | Critical Review by Virgilia Peterson

This literature criticism consists of approximately 2 pages of analysis & critique of Pearl S. Buck.
This section contains 531 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Virgilia Peterson

Critical Review by Virgilia Peterson

SOURCE: "All in the Family of Man," in New York Times Book Review, November 9, 1958, p. 4.

In the following review, Peterson asserts that "The people in Buck's Letter From Peking are informed with magnanimity; and it is this magnanimity, inherent in Miss Buck herself as well as in her characters, that lifts Letter From Peking far above the level of a treatise on understanding and makes it a moving and memorable tale."

Throughout her writing life, Pearl Buck has been building bridges of understanding between an old and a new civilization, between one generation and another, between differing attitudes toward God and nationality and parenthood and love. Not all Miss Buck's bridges have withstood the freight of problems they were designed to bear. But The Good Earth will surely continue to span the abyss that divides East from West, so long as there are people to read it.

Now, once again, in her latest novel, it is primarily as a builder of bridges that Miss Buck should be judged. Letter From Peking, taut, spare and nobly wrought, stretches from Vermont to China to link the loyalties and longings, the joys and sufferings that constitute the endless variety and the unchanging sameness of the family of man. Letter From Peking is one of the best of Miss Buck's bridges.

The story begins in 1950. Five long years have passed since Elizabeth, the narrator, and her son Rennie, left Peking and her beloved half-Chinese husband, Gerald MacLeod, to wait on a Vermont farm for the Communist upheaval in China to die down, Gerald himself had made them go, and had decided, as the head of a university, that he must stay behind. After months of silence, the twelfth letter from Peking, the last she will have from Gerald—as she knows when she opens it—arrives. It is, and it is not, what Elizabeth has so patiently and painfully awaited, for while it brings her reassurance of love, it seals her fate.

There was much that Elizabeth had never learned about her husband, about his Chinese mother, about his Scottish father from Virginia, and about his inmost reasons for the decision that had torn them apart. Little by little, as the story unfolds, she acquires the knowledge she lacked. Little by little, she comes to understand not only the husband who chose a Communist China that he did not believe in rather than the American wife he loved, but also his son who, at 18, cannot accept what he is or what his parents have done to him.

"You don't understand," Rennie cries to his mother, in an agony of rebellion. "You are American, your ancestry is pure—"

"O pure-" Elizabeth cries back at him, "the rebels of half a dozen nations in Europe—"

"None of that matters," Rennie replies. "You are all white."

This book is peopled with men and women incapable of self-pity and unwilling to blame life for their allotted pain. They are informed with magnanimity; and it is this magnanimity, inherent in Miss Buck herself as well as in her characters, that lifts Letter From Peking far above the level of a treatise on understanding and makes it a moving and memorable tale.

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This section contains 531 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Virgilia Peterson
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