Summary: Chapter 28
Wang Lung’s uncle and his uncle’s wife eagerly accept the opium Wang Lung buys for them. They quickly become addicted and no longer trouble Wang Lung. Refugees return from the south and borrow money at high interest from Wang Lung to buy seed. Many are forced to sell some of their land to Wang Lung in order to do so, while others sell their daughters. They prefer selling their daughters to Wang Lung than to any other landowner, for they know Wang Lung is kind. When a man brings Pear Blossom, his small seven-year-old girl, Wang Lung buys her as a servant for Lotus. His uncle’s son does not become an opium addict and continues to idle around the house, eyeing whatever women pass by, including the wife of Wang Lung’s oldest son. Wang Lung’s oldest son comes up with the suggestion that Wang Lung rent the old great house of the Hwang family and allow the family of Wang Lung’s uncle to stay in the present house. Wang Lung’s second son supports the idea, and Wang Lung rents the house. Although he did not even know he wanted it, Wang Lung is deeply satisfied to live in the house that for him always epitomized wealth and success.
Summary: Chapter 29
Wang Lung’s second son, who has never struck his father as interested in marriage, astonishes Wang Lung by expressing a well-considered desire to marry a hardworking, frugal village woman from a landed family. Wang Lung readily agrees, and his second son is betrothed to a woman recommended by Ching. Soon after, and to everyone’s delight except his mother’s, the uncle’s son decides to go join a war in the north. Wang Lung continues to adjust to the lifestyle of the rich: he purchases new clothing for his family and slaves, he sleeps late, and he takes a liking to expensive foods. Wang Lung’s daughter-in-law, the wife of his oldest son, gives birth to a healthy son. Wang Lung’s son hires a wet nurse for the child because he doesn’t want to see his wife’s breasts ruined and her energy drained.
Soon after the baby is born, the eldest son suggests that they set up tablets of their ancestors to worship during feast days, as other great families do. In the midst of all this happiness, Ching dies suddenly in the fields. Wang Lung prepares an elaborate funeral and insists that his family wear clothing of mourning. He wants to bury Ching near his father and O-lan, but he cedes to his son’s requests not to bury a servant with the family. Wang Lung walks in the fields less frequently, because his fields remind him of his faithful servant.
Summary: Chapter 30
At his eldest son’s urging, Wang Lung allows the purchase of expensive furniture and decorations. He gets so careless about the cost of these purchases that he refuses to finance them only when his responsible second son complains of the excessive expense. Wang Lung learns that his third son does not want to be a farmer; reluctantly, Wang Lung hires a tutor for him. Wang Lung entrusts the family finances to the second son. In time, Wang Lung’s uncle dies and is buried in the family plot.
Summary: Chapter 31
The battlefront of the war moves closer, and the son of Wang Lung’s uncle, now a soldier, exploits Wang Lung’s hospitality to house himself and some of his comrades. Meanwhile, Cuckoo suggests they allow Wang Lung’s cousin to pick a slave for himself. He asks for Pear Blossom, but Pear Blossom begs to be spared. Another slave offers to take her place, and the arrangement is sealed. When Wang Lung’s cousin departs, the slave is pregnant.
Summary: Chapter 32
The slave gives birth to a girl, and Wang Lung marries the slave to one of his laborers. Meanwhile, his uncle’s wife dies and is buried in the family plot. Tension between the two older brothers increases. They argue over money, and their wives become enemies. Wang Lung’s third son announces that he would like to be a soldier, and Wang Lung offers him anything he desires if he will change his mind. However, when the son asks for Pear Blossom, Wang Lung is overcome with jealousy. He says that his son may not have children by the slaves, as it is immoral.