A House Divided
By Pearl S. Buck
Yuan flees his father’s home and domineering control without a word. He thinks he is running from his father, but he is really running from his own inner conflict. With no idea of where to go, he remembers a peaceful earthen house his grandfather lived in before he garnered his wealth. He takes up residence within this simple earthen home much to the dismay of the common tenants who live there. In reality, he is not only hiding from his father, but from himself. He wants to be something different than he is, and different from his father. When the entire village looks at him with suspicion as the general’s son, they wonder what he wants from them. This bothers him because he has explained he wants nothing but to feel the earth under his feet.
Within days, his father locates him and sends word to return home. The message says his father’s health is failing. Upon Yuan’s return, his father announces he has arranged Yuan’s marriage. The young man feels deceived and refuses to accept such bondage. Once again he flees without any idea of where to go. His horse goes lame; he sells it and uses the money to take a train to the coastal city where he lives with one of his father’s wives and his half-sister Ai-lan. The lady of the house takes him in as her own son, and he calls her mother. Within this home, he learns modern city ways along with some western customs. As he learns new ways and customs, he does not let go of his traditional foundation. The mixing of the two fuels his inner conflict, often is evidenced by a rigidity that cuts him off from others. This cycle repeats itself throughout stages of his life as a student, revolutionist, prisoner, American student, and a teacher in China. While fighting these personal battles in every direction from without and within, he falls in love with Mei-ling because she is “between” just like he is. She does not fit with the old or the new. In his eyes she is perfect. However, when he asks her to marry him, she says no. Through this event, Yuan grows and accepts her answer with a willingness to still be friends and to stay in touch. When he returns home to his tortured father, he calls on her as a doctor and friend. She comes to stand with him in what is right and through the process agrees to be his wife.