Pearl Sydenstricker Buck

        Pearl S. Buck, a female writer and a religious woman, was born in the United States in 1892 to two Chinese missionaries named Absalom and Caroline Sydenstricker (Moss 131).  Buck was raised with and taught by the Bible daily. This persistent and vigorous religious training of her parents left a lasting impression on her future writings and beliefs.

        Absalom Sydenstricker, Buck’s father, was deeply serious and spiritually devoted man.  His whole life, Absalom’s thoughts were dominated by God.  When of age, he became a Presbyterian minister and went to China to become a missionary.  In time, his serious remoteness and concentration on religious beliefs caused him to stray far from his family.  Consequently he never became very close to his daughter Pearl.  In turn, Buck admired her father’s devotion, yet she also resented his lost time with his family (Doyle, American Writers 119, 131).

        Buck’s mother Caroline, on the other hand, did not provide her with as stable religious beliefs as her father did.  She tended to have wavering religious beliefs and was at constant struggle with her spirituality (Doyle, Dictionary of Literary Biography 100).  Caroline was said to have “possessed a sensual strain that warred with her religious tendencies” (Doyle, American Writers 119).  Although differing in beliefs and nature, both of her parents influenced Buck’s writings in the religious aspect.

        Buck included strong religious concept in her writing.  Her writings were described in a manner to “resemble sermons in church, which embodied some principle from the day’s Bible lesson” (Buck 16).  Examples of Buck’s books containing morals and admirable behavior: The Angry Wife, The Long Love, Bright Procession, Voices in the House, Enough for a Lifetime, The Exile, Fighting Angel, Pavilion of Women, and The Time is Noon.

        Although Buck’s father regarded novels as “secondary, frivolous, and irreligious” (Doyle, American Writers 122) and China at the time was torn between western technology and religion (Hayford 17), Buck’s fervor for writing was not inhibited in any way.  Her goal was to reach and preach to the widest range of audience possible.  She included religious ideas, outright and underlying, in both her fictional and non-fictional works.  She struggled to “hold the readers’ attention long enough to enlighten them” (Doyle, American Writers 122).  Through her writings, Buck showed her past religious instruction by her parents to have affected her writings in concept and characteristics.

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Meagen T. Smith
Randolph-Macon Women's College
2500 Rivermont Avenue
Lynchburg, Va 24503

Revised December 26, 2000