This book ( copyright 1997) is a relatively solitary undertaking of studying a relatively solitary American writer. All the more, therefore, I appreciate the help, advice, and encouragement so kindly and generously offered to me by a few friends, professors, and family members. Without them, I could not have completed my studies.

First of all, I must give my thanks to Governor Gaston Caperton, who not only has supported me in studying Pearl S. Buck at West Virginia University but also has been encouraging me to study English and the Western culture ever since we met at Beijing Normal University in the autumn of 1979.

I am also grateful to Professor R.W.B. Lewis of Yale University, who first gave me a hand to make it possible for me to be a visiting scholar and to do research work in this country. He has continuously given me advice and encouragement to study Pearl S. Buck, among other American writers.

I am in debt to Professor Avery Gaskins, the director of my dissertation committee, and to Professor Wesley Bagby, Professor William French, Professor Frank Scafella, and Professor Hayden Ward, all members of the committee, who have gone out of their way to direct my studies of a subject unpopular in the academic world. I thank them for giving me confidence when I desperately needed it and for offering me valuable advice on how to improve my dissertation. I should also mention Professor Rudolph Almasy, Professor Patrick Conner, Professor Elaine Ginsberg, and Professor Arthur Buck, whose advice and assistance helped me keep working on my dissertation from which this book is converted.

Among many professors in Beijing Normal University, I want to thank Professor Nengjee Shih as a representative teacher, from whom I learned more English than from any other professors. I also want to thank Professor Hsingju Yuan, who alone expressed regret but understanding of the decision I made under the stern circumstances of 1989, for this book is one of the fruits of thatdecision.

My special thanks are due to Wei Zhang and Yanping Liu, who took care of my son Ruofan Liao in China for more than five years so that I could go on with my studies in this country without being crushed by worries for my son, who, more than anyone else, kept my hope alive.

I feel especially obliged to Rui Jiang, who came to me with love and care in the most difficult time of my life. No words can fully express my gratitude to her, who helped me in every possible way to continue and complete this book.

Finally and most important, I am deeply grateful to my father Dong-hsian Liao, who, besides all the love and duties a father shows to and performs for his son, cultivated my desire for learning and helped me, if not forced me, to develop the habit of studying science at the time when studying anything other than Mao’s works was a crime. Without my father’s extraordinary effort to train me and to teach me, I would have remained a worker in a small factory.

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Besides the thematic seriousness of her writings, we may see Pearl Buck’s serious attitude toward art most clearly in her decision to use a pseudonym, John Sedges, to publish five of her novels—The Townsman, The Angry Wife, The Long Love, Bright Procession, and Voices in the House—at the time when her works were most popular. She wanted to know if people read her because of her fame or because of her art. She wanted to prove that she was not only a writer about China but that she could also write successful novels about American subjects. Later in the preface of American Triptych, a collected edition of three of the novels, she declared that she was giving up her nom de plume in order to be free to write on either American or Chinese themes and let readers evaluate her works without prejudice. Of the five novels, the first one, The Townsman, was an instant success. It is so realistic that the reviewer for the Kansas City Star said, as Theodore F. Harris recorded,”This book must have been written by one who has spent a lifetime in Kansas.” Harris also told us that no one guessed who the real author of this novel was, and only Francis Hackett came close to the truth by saying, “This novel is written in the finest English tradition from George Eliot to Pearl Buck” ( Harris 1969, 296).

September 12th, 2016 at 6:58 pm