Monday, May 26, 2014

Decisive Life Path: The Eternal Wonder by Pearl S. buck

A hand-written Pearl S. Buck Manuscript was discovered in January of 2013, forty years after the 1938 Nobel Prize for Literature winner's death. Her son, Edgar Walsh, decided to have the novel edited and published even though his mother died before she was able to revise it. The novel can be enjoyed by young readers as well as adults.

In Buck's simple and direct style, the story is told of a brilliant young man with an insatiable desire to learn about all aspects of life. The novel follows the development from the womb to adulthood of Randolph Colfax, the son of upper middle class parents born in a small college town in the eastern US. His mother and professor father encourage Rann to learn as much as possible through books but also through direct experience with new environments and people.

Rann is accelerated through the US education system entering college after taking entrance exams at age 12. The college experience gives Rann an opportunity to gain some independence while still living at home, and he begins to learn rapidly not only from books but also from chance encounters with intelligent people, especially one of his professors. He is mentally prepared to benefit from these encounters but must learn some difficult life lessons rapidly and must deal with the enduring consequences.

Rann is able to broaden his learning because of dramatic changes in his immediate family that allow him to leave college and travel as he wishes without concern for financial limits. So, with a prepared mind and sufficient funds Rann is able to satisfy his wonder by visiting new locations and meeting and taking a true interest in people from various cultural backgrounds in England, Paris, Korea, and New York. The people he meets determine his life path to some extent, but Rann realizes he must decide on his own public expression of eternal wonder in a creative way. He realizes that his life choices affect him profoundly but also have major positive and negative influences on people he loves. He also discovers that he can learn languages quickly but that there are limits to enculturation between oriental societies, like China and Korea, and US society. Even love cannot overcome some cultural barriers. As a result of his wide-ranging adventures, can Rann retain his eternal wonder, his desire to learn as much as he can and use his knowledge for a creative life work?

Pearl S. Buck was a disciplined writer who probably would have re-written her last known novel extensively. Although the style of writing is consistently readable and realistic, the themes (e.g., the interaction of art and science, racial identity) and story (behavioral outcome of the interaction of fame and creativity) are not completely developed. I read The Good Earth, Buck's first very successful novel in the 1960's and remember her beautiful and subtle style of writing and her well-developed themes of life in China. I believe that almost all readers will enjoy the novel and certainly all readers will have thought provoking experiences reading it.

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