The Good Earth: Novel Summary: Chapter 29-31
The entire household moves to the inner courts of the House of Hwang. The exceptions are Wang Lung's uncle and his family, Wang Lung himself, his mentally retarded daughter, and his youngest son. Wang Lung is unwilling to make the move until a bride is found for his second son. Ching finds a suitable girl in a nearby village, who comes with a good dowry. Wang Lung also decides to rent out some of his land to tenants.
The son of Wang Lung's uncle goes to join a war in the north, just for something to do. Wang Lung is relieved to get rid of the troublesome young man.
He now spends more and more time in the inner courts at the former House of Hwang. He spends money lavishly to equip the apartments, and also starts to eat dainty foods, the kind of foods that the rich eat. Cuckoo tells him he reminds her of the Old Lord, a comparison that pleases him.
The wife of the eldest son gives birth to a son. Wang Lung is proud to become a grandfather.
Ching dies as a result of working too hard in the fields, showing a new laborer how to do the threshing. Wang Lung feels more grief at his death than he did when his father died, and he buys a coffin of the best kind, and buries Ching as near the family burial plot as he can. After this, Wang Lung rarely goes to his land. He is weary of labor and is lonely without Ching. So he rents out all the land that he can. He moves permanently with his youngest son and his daughter to the house in town.
Wang Lung's eldest son persuades his father to acquire the outer courts of the old House of Hwang as well as the inner ones. The son arranges for the rents for the outer courts to be raised so that all the common people are forced out. Wang Lung pays out a lot of money, egged on by his son, to restore the house to its former glory. The second son protests at the amount of money being spent, saying that it eats into his inheritance. Wang Lung tells his elder son to stop spending on the house, but the son says it is fitting for a family of their station to live in a manner that befits their wealth. He only reluctantly agrees to comply with his father's request.
Next, his son persuades Wang Lung to employ a tutor for his youngest son, so he can learn to read. Wang Lung is reluctant, since he decided years ago that his youngest son would remain on the land, and needed no other education. But when he discovers that his youngest son also desires to learn to read, he agrees. He also appoints his second son in charge of the management of Wang Lung's land, since Wang Lung knows that he is careful with money.
Over the next five years, Wang Lung has four grandsons and three grand-daughters. During that period also, his uncle dies, and Wang Lung moves his uncle's wife into one of the far courts in his town home.
There is a war going on in the northwest, and one day a horde of soldiers descends on the town. One of the soldiers is the son of Wang Lung's uncle, who takes it on himself to tell the soldiers they can stay at Wang Lung's courts. They pour in and make nuisances of themselves, saying they will be quartered in the town for an unknown period, until they are called for by the war. The soldiers are violent and brandish knives, so the Wang Lung family cannot protest. The men take the women into the inner courts for safety. Even so, the son of Wang Lung's uncle behaves in an obnoxious manner toward the women, and his old enmity with Wang Lung's eldest son is rekindled. Wang Lung also dislikes him. To keep his nephew quiet, Wang Lung gives him a young slave named Pear Blossom, and she becomes pregnant by him.
After about six weeks, the soldiers leave.
Wang Lung continues to spend his money and enjoy his wealth, although he never attains peace for long. There is always some family trouble that afflicts him.
These chapters serve to characterize his sons. Wang Lung's eldest son, like his father, is a snob, referring to "the common swarm with their stinks and their noise" (p. 263). He is very concerned about appearances, and very conscious of his social position in the town. He is so contemptuous of the common people that they laugh at him for it, saying, "He has forgotten the smell of the manure in the dooryard on his father's farm!" (p. 264). The eldest behaves like one of the young lords in the old House of Hwang, always spending lavishly, and unaware of how the wealth he enjoys came from the land. It is as if the wheel has come full circle; wealth corrupts, whether it belongs to the Hwang family or the Wang Lung family. Wang Lung has to remind his son that "even great families are from the land and rooted in the land" (p. 266).
Wang Lung's second son, however, is a sharp contrast to his brother, at least in terms of how the two men handle money. The younger brother is a miser, and even complains about how much his own wedding is costing! When Wang Lung puts him in charge of the financial management of the property, he gives the slaves and servants the absolute minimum he can get away with.