Summary and Analysis
Wang Lung cannot free himself from the thought of the youthful beauty of Pear Blossom, and he is ashamed since he is approaching seventy years old. One day, however, as she passes him, he calls her forth, and she, feeling "from him the heat of his blood," confesses that she cannot stand the fiery passions of young men and much prefers to have old men who are gentle. He leads her to his own courts, where she then becomes his last concubine — one who will be with him until the end of his life and will look after his needs until death.
In Chinese custom, it is understood that a great lord can have his choice of women in his house and it is not a shame to him or his family. Yet Wang Lung does feel shame because this is contrary to the way in which he spent his childhood — having early learned to frown on the decadent ways of the great rich families. Yet here he is free to do all the things that great rich lords do. He is even afraid to face Lotus Flower, though he has not been with her for years. He bribes Cuckoo to tell Lotus Flower that Pear Blossom is moving in with him.
He is next concerned about what his sons will say. The second son learns of Pear Blossom first and says nothing. Then the eldest son, who is always more finicky, is at first incredulous but finally dismisses it with the remark, "you are rich and you may do as you like." When the youngest son comes in that night and discovers Pear Blossom with his father, he "gleams" at his father, conveying a sense of moral indignation. He then announces with a fierce, low, and surcharged voice: "Now I will go for a soldier." There is the sense that this son is the one who is breaking from the ancient Chinese customs which allow such absolute sovereignty to the reigning male. The youngest son is ready to fight to give more rights to females — as did Pearl Buck when she herself worked in a house for refugee slaves fleeing cruel masters.
Being an old man, Wang Lung's passion "died out of him," yet he is still fond of Pear Blossom. In fact, she is the only one he trusts to look after his "poor fool" after he is dead. He gives Pear Blossom some powder which will kill the "poor fool" so that she will follow Wang Lung in death. Pear Blossom objects that she cannot even kill an insect and promises to look after the "fool" after Wang Lung is dead: "Wang Lung trusted her and was comforted for the fate of his poor fool."
Wang Lung is now so old that he does not even know what his own family is doing and has to inquire of Cuckoo about the nature of his family, and he learns that he now has eleven grandsons and eight granddaughters. But the one thing that never leaves Wang Lung is his love for the land, for the good earth: "He had gone away from it and he had set up his house in a town and he was rich. But his roots were in his land." As he feels death drawing near, he asks his eldest son to get him a coffin and bring it to the earthen house where he will move and end his days where he was born. Taking Pear Blossom, his fool, and a few servants, he returns to the good earth which brought about the establishment of the House of Wang. Once when the eldest and second son come for a visit, he overhears them talking of selling the land and he firmly resists such talk: "Out of the land we came and into it we must go — and if you will hold your land you can live — no one can rob you of land." Consequently, from our first glimpse of Wang Lung on his wedding day, when he felt as one with the good earth and through all his trials, he hung onto his land to the very end; Wang Lung has constantly emphasized his alliance with the "good earth."