Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Reading Period 9: November 3 - 16: Iraq / Iran

Class meeting: November 16
Due Date: November 15, 7pm

Long Read:

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck, chapters 9-16

Short Read:

"The Story of Sinbad the Sailor" from Arabian Nights Entertainments, told by Andrew Lang
"The Adventures of Haroun Al Raschid, Caliph of Baghdad" from Arabian Nights Entertainments, told by Andrew Lang.


"Recollections of Arabian Nights" by Alfred Lord Tennyson

Creative Assignment:

Listen to the Scheherazade symphonic suite by Rimsky Korsakov. The video I linked to has no visuals, so you can listen to it while you read or do your art. Here's something you should read: this article about Scheherazade the storyteller. It was written to accompany the Scheherazade suite. Now create an illustration of Scheherazade telling her stories to the sultan, using whatever medium you like. You can do a line drawing, a watercolor painting, a paper collage, or even create a Lego minifig tableau.


Here in Norfolk, we do not have enclaves of beggars living with children in huts made of reed mats, like Wang Lung's family. However, we do have soup kitchens, not dissimilar to the rice kitchen in The Good Earth, and we do have homeless people who do occasionally beg at street corners or on sidewalks, using handwritten signs or tin cups to inspire charity and collect money. Often they are harrassed, ignored, made to move on from public spaces, and ridiculed. Do some research as to the help and benefits available to homeless people in your town. Look at the web sites for Union Mission Ministries, For Kids, and The Salvation Army Emergency Men's Shelter. Write a letter to city council regarding begging in the city of Norfolk. Should people be allowed to beg on the street? Are there enough resources available? Your position should either be that people should be allowed to beg without being bothered, or that beggars should be picked up by the police. If you take the second position, please say what should happen to them at that point.


Build a functional rickshaw. It can be full sized, American Girl doll sized, or smaller as long as you have built it and not just found a Playmobil rickshaw or whatever, if such a thing exists. (Oh look, IT DOES!) It must be able to carry a rider and be pulled around on wheels.

Writing Assignment:

Read about the Chinese Revolution of 1911. Write a 300 word essay about what happened in the revolution, including the causes of this revolution. To support your reasoning, give evidence from The Good Earth. Where do you see injustice in the novel? Consider what Wang Lung's family had to go through, and his neighbor's ominous line: “When the rich are too rich, there are ways.”


Pearl S. Buck's novel, published in 1931, created sympathy for the Chinese people and support for their government, which had arisen from the revolution of 1911 as portrayed in the book. Read these critiques of The Good Earth from the time it was published:

Since Mrs. Buck does not understand the meaning of the Confucian separation of man’s kingdom from that of woman, she is like someone trying to write a story of the European Middle Ages without understanding the rudiments of chivalric standards and the institution of Christianity. None of her major descriptions is correct except in minor details.... Its implied comparison between Western and Eastern ways is unjust to the latter.
                                                    Younghill Kang in The New Republic, 1931 

Mrs. Buck has enabled us to witness and appreciate the patience, frugality, industry, and indomitable good humor of a suffering people, whose homes the governing intellectuals would hide from the sight of the world.
                                                      editorial in The New York Times, 1931 

One of the main reasons Americans felt such sympathy for rural Chinese people after reading The Good Earth was because of their horror of things that were a natural part of Confucianism -- like the inequality between men and women, the duties to parents, etc. as we discussed in class. Do you think that critics of The Good Earth have a point, when they say that an American person writing about Chinese culture could not possibly understand or communicate the struggles and experience of that culture? Or do you think that her attempt to write about Chinese life was worthy and had merit? Maybe a book that Americans sympathetic to the Chinese would be valuable, even if the reasoning involved is faulty. You can discuss in your essay whether outsiders should be allowed to write about native cultures in this way, or if they should only write about their own experiences in these countries as foreigners.

The Xinhai Revolution, 1911


We are going to memorize a stanza from The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam in class. It's not included in the excerpt linked above. If you'd like to get a jump on it, here it is:

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
 Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
   Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
 Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.


Your full first draft is due on Sunday, November 22 at 7pm. To make sure you are not leaving it until the last days to work on, I'm going to require half of it to be turned in on Sunday the 15th at 7pm. It must be typed and submitted in email or as a shared Google document. 


1. Who gets to eat first, in Wang Lung's household, when they find any food?
2. What kind thing does the neighbor Ching do for Wang Lung and his household?
3. What happened to the fourth baby?
4. What does Wang Lung's uncle want when he visits in chapter 9?
5. What is a fire wagon?
6. What instructions does Wang Lung receive for survival in the southern city, from people who have been in the south before?
7. Why do poor people have to eat the charity rice while they're still in the building, and not take it home?
8. At one point in chapter 12, Wang Lung stops feeling like such a foreigner in the city. Why?
9. What is the cause of the "angry growling" talk among the young men of the city?
10. What is inside the wall next to which Wang Lung has been living?
11. Why does Wang Lung see himself differently from the other men in the huts?
12. What is on the piece of paper given to Wang Lung by the tall man with blue eyes?
13. Wang Lung witnesses common men being taken against their will by armed soldiers. Where are they being taken?
14. What are Wang Lung and O Lan discussing just when the gates of the city are breached?
15. What does Wang Lung take away from the raid on the great house?
16. How does Wang Lung repay Ching's kindness?
17. What did O Lan take away from the raid?
18. What does O Lan want to keep, from all her stolen treasures?
19. Who answers Wang Lung's knock at the House of Huang?
20. Who is now in charge of the House of Huang?

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