Lesson Plan - Get It!
Where do you find food when your farmland looks like this?
The life of a farmer is dependent on the weather — a condition he or she cannot change.
In the first four chapters of The Good Earth, you read about prosperous farming conditions. However, in the following chapters, you'll witness a drought and the resulting famine. This event in the novel is based on the North China famine of 1876–1879, which was one of the most severe droughts to strike China in recorded history, and resulted in the death of millions of men, women, and children. To learn more about the North China famine, read the following article. As you read, answer the following questions in your notebook or journal that you started keeping in the first lesson on the novel:
- Approximately how many people died during the three-year drought and famine?
- For what reasons was the Qing dynasty unable to prevent famine from occurring during 1876–1879, even though they had previously helped their citizens avoid famines during other droughts?
- What attempts did the Qing dynasty make to reduce the effects of famine in the northern provinces?
- Although the North China famine was largely forgotten, what twentieth-century event brought the famine back into China's national consciousness?
Read North China famine, 1876-79, by Kathryn Edgerton-Tarpley, DisasterHistory.org.
- Based on your reading, do you think the famine could have been prevented? Why or why not?
After you have answered the questions on the article, read the next section of The Good Earth. For this lesson, read Chapters Five through Ten of the novel. You will need to obtain a print copy of the novel, which you can find in a local bookstore or library. As you read, write down the characters' reactions to famine.
- How do people react when they are pushed into starvation?
When you have finished reading and taking notes, move on to the Got It? section to explore the content of these chapters in more detail.