Summary and Analysis
Wang Lung is impatient to get the task of moving accomplished. Yet on the day set aside for moving, he is still reluctant to leave the land. Thus, Pearl Buck suggests that, even in wealth, Wang Lung's ties with the land are still exceptionally strong. He resolves to move to his new court before his grandson is born, realizing that he can return to his old home any time he wants to. Later, in the final chapter of the novel, he does return to the land, accompanied by little Pear Blossom.
The moving order of the family carries some significance. As long as O-lan was alive, Lotus Flower was still second to her. Now that O-lan is dead, Lotus Flower has been raised in status; consequently, she and her servant Cuckoo and their slaves are the first to be moved, followed by the eldest son and his wife.
With the help of Ching, whom Wang Lung relies upon more and more, a maid is found for the second son and the wedding is arranged. Now Wang Lung feels that he might have peace since there is only one more son to marry. Thus, as he sleeps in the sun, Pearl Buck shows us how he resembles his father in the beginning of the novel. We have nearly come full circle.
Now that Ching is getting older and there is so much land to look after, Wang Lung decides to rent portions of the land and take half of the crops in lieu of rent. Wang Lung is becoming more and more like the Old Lord of the House of Hwang, who merely sat in his courts with his mistresses and collected his rents.
When the uncle's son comes and asks for money in order to join the war in the North, Wang Lung finally discovers peace for himself. He now has enough money to do anything he wants; there seems to be peace and tranquility, and he "who once had been well satisfied with good wheaten bread wrapped about a stick of garlic" now eats "dainty foods" and dresses his slaves better than he himself was dressed in his youth. He is especially pleased when Cuckoo refers to him as "a lord."
When it comes time for his eldest son's wife to give birth, Wang Lung again goes to the gods — promising nice things if it is to be a boy, but threatening to forsake them if it is a girl.
More important, however, is the contrast in this scene between the birth of Wang Lung's eldest son and the birth of this grandson. Wang Lung remembers how O-lan refused help from anyone, gave birth to the child alone, and then came back to the fields to help with the harvest. In contrast, this daughter-in-law "cried like a child with her pains," and she had "the slaves running in the house, and her husband there by her door." The contrast makes Wang Lung realize how old he is because the memories of O-lan are like vague dreams.
The birth of the grandson is paralleled by the death of Ching — a death which affects him more than did the death of his own father. Ching had been with Wang Lung so long, even at the meager wedding feast for O-lan, and had served Wang Lung so well that he wants to bury Ching in the family burial plot where his father and O-lan are buried. But the eldest son is horrified at such an indiscretion that Wang Lung relents and buries Ching farther down the hill. Now is the time to make a complete separation from the land: he rents his land out and takes his "fool" and youngest son to town. Now the family has completely dissolved its closeness with the "good earth."
But there is not yet peace, for Wang Lung longs only to lounge in the sun, and the eldest son harangues him about acquiring all the outer courts. He even holds his nose as he walks through the rabble which inhabits the outer courts. Wang Lung agrees, and the eldest son begins to refurbish and redecorate the outer courts befitting a family whom the townspeople now call "the great House of Wang." A conflict occurs, however, when the second son resents all the money being spent simply to impress people. When Wang Lung finds out that the wedding preparations will cost ten times the price of the bride, he orders the elder son to desist.
Next, Wang Lung is plagued by the youngest son, who does not want to stay on the land but wants to be educated as were his older brothers. It troubles Wang Lung that he has no son upon the land, but, in order to have peace, he has a tutor engaged to teach the youngest son.
As the years pass, Wang Lung, in the space of five years, has five grandsons and three granddaughters, and each child has his own individual slave when it is born. Thus the House of Wang is becoming not only a powerful house, but a very large house.
After the ravages of opium, Wang Lung's uncle is on the verge of death, and the uncle's wife hopes that if their son comes home that Wang Lung will find a bride suitable for him so that he might carry on the family name. When the uncle dies, Wang Lung has the uncle's wife brought to the great house in town. She is now as dried and yellow as was the Old Mistress whom Wang Lung had once feared so greatly.