Buck, shows a real, but fictitious account of a Chinese peasant's rise from the depths of the poor to become one of the most powerful men in the entire province. The story follows Wang Lung from his early adult days to his final days on his deathbed. The novel goes from showing Wang Lung's family begging for money on the curb to survive to each member in the household being able to have their own personal slave. It is captivating tale and has a lot to offer to a westerner to find out about the Chinese way of life.
The purpose of the novel is to show the different types of relationships that the Chinese have and their values to a westerner that may read the book. China has always been a very confined country that has kept to itself and blocked out the outside world. The Chinese, especially of yesteryear, do not have much contact with foreign influences. This has created a large problem with the outside world, especially the western world, as to the misunderstanding of why the Chinese do the things they do. Not only that, but also to inform the reader of the Chinese relationships and cultural views of these relationships that develop. The author tries to argue, through her writing, that although the Chinese relationships and hierarchical dominance system may not be normal, or even moral, to a western world reader their actions are accepted in their society. Pearl S. Buck does not draw these relationships for the reader to pass judgement on, but rather to understand why the Chinese do as they do.
Pearl S. Buck shows these relationships in three major themes. The most significant relationship is the one of Wang Lung and his land. The second most major one that is developed was the relationship of Wang Lung and the females that are in his life (O-lan, his wife, and Lotus Flower, his concubine). The last relationship is more on a social scale. It seems that the opinion of how others perceive him is constantly on the mind of Wang Lung.