Many contemporary reviewers were positive, and praised her “beautiful prose,” even though her “style is apt to degenerate into overrepetition and confusion.” Robert Benchley wrote a parody of “The Good Earth” that focused on just these qualities, to excellent effect. Peter Conn, in his biography of Buck, argues that despite the accolades awarded to her, Buck’s contribution to literature has been mostly forgotten or deliberately ignored by America’s cultural gatekeepers. Kang Liao argues that Buck played a “pioneering role in demythologizing China and the Chinese people in the American mind.” Phyllis Bentley, in an overview of Buck’s work published in 1935, was altogether impressed: “But we may say at least that for the interest of her chosen material, the sustained high level of her technical skill, and the frequent universality of her conceptions, Mrs. Buck is entitled to take rank as a considerable artist. To read her novels is to gain not merely knowledge of China but wisdom about life.” These works aroused considerable popular sympathy for China, and helped foment poor relations with Japan.
Anchee Min, author of a fictionalized life of Pearl Buck, broke down upon reading Buck’s work, because she had portrayed the Chinese peasants “with such love, affection and humanity”.
Buck was honored in 1983 with a 5¢ Great Americans series postage stamp issued by the United States Postal Service In 1999 she was designated a Women’s History Month Honoree by the National Women’s History Project.