The Good Earth was published in 1931. It was an immediate hit and has remained Buck's most well-known text. The novel has been translated into more than thirty different languages. Buck won the Pulitzer Prize for this work in 1932. The Good Earth was based on a short story the author had published in an issue of Asia magazine entitled: "The Revolutionist." The story introduced the character of Wang Lung and vague outlined the novel's eventual structure.
The appeal of The Good Earth lies in its wide array of topics and themes. It speaks of family, of values, of politics, of tradition. Thus, its impact was felt not only in the United States, where it was published, but also in China. The saga is written in a simple style, which belies the complex nature of the work.
Some Chinese critics of the book disapproved of Buck's portrayal of China. From small details such as how tea is made in China, to larger topics such as the relationship between slaves and masters, many disputed the novel's accuracy. Many of these attacks questioned Buck's authenticity and entitlement, arguing that no matter how long Pearl Buck lived in China or how well she knew the culture, she was still a foreigner, and thus not entitled to render judgements on Chinese ways. Buck remains a controversial literary figure in China.
The Good Earth is part of a trilogy which was published in 1935, entitled House of Earth. The other two books are Sons (1932) and A House Divided (1935).