The Good Earth: Novel Summary: Chapter 4-6
The day after the birth, Wang Lung goes to the market and buys fifty eggs, which he dyes red in honor of the new-born. This is a traditional custom. He also buys incense and burns it at the temple in honor of the gods.
Soon, O-lan returns to work with him in the fields, and together they plant wheat. When winter arrives, they are well prepared, since the harvest was a bumper one. Wang Lung continues to be frugal, not wasting money on gambling or fancy foods. This is in contrast to his uncle and his wife, who never save anything.
When the child is one month old, Wang Lung invites guests to his house, and gives them the dyed and boiled red eggs, two for each person. Everyone envies Wang Lung's good fortune. Wang Lung feels at ease with himself because he has more than enough to meet the needs of his family. He even manages to save some silver pieces, and has a secret hiding place for them in the house.
New Year comes and the whole village celebrates. Wang Lung's prosperity continues, and O-lan makes New Year's cakes with rice flour, fat and sugar. On the second day of the New Year, they take their son, dressed in a red coat and tiger-faced shoes that O-lan has made, to the House of Hwang. O-lan takes the boy to the ladies' court, where she presents the Old Mistress and the other ladies with the cakes. When she returns she tells Wang Lung that the House of Hwang is beginning to encounter hard times, because of the wasteful spending of the young men and the Old Lord's habit of acquiring one or two new concubines every year. They are living beyond their means, and O-lan has learned directly from the Old Mistress that they wished to sell some of their land. Wang Lung has the idea that he will buy it. O-lan expresses reluctance, suggesting that Wang Lung buy some of his uncle's land instead, but Wang Lung insists, and she soon lets him have his way.
After some initial regrets about spending his savings on the purchase of land, Wang Lung is proud of his new acquisition. He vows to accumulate more money so he can buy more land from the House of Hwang.
In spring, he and O-lan labor hard on their new land.
In the fall, O-lan gives birth to a second son. Wang Lung is elated by his good fortune, and looks forward to fathering a son every year, and continuing good harvests. For a while he is not disappointed. He saves more money from the sale of his produce, and as a successful landowner, his prestige in the village increases.
In these chapters, Wang Lung's life continues on an upward trajectory. His careful stewardship of his land, and his innate decency and good sense ensure that he flourishes. He is now the father of two sons and the owner of some profitable land. In contrast, the House of Hwang in the city is on its way down. Wasteful spending and a lack of responsibility are taking their toll on the rich family's fortunes. The basic contrast here is between the solid values of Wang Lung the peasant, who knows how to get the best out of the land, and the corrupt values of the city, where people have forgotten the principles of life that made them prosperous in the first place. However, there are ominous signs for Wang Lung. As chapter 6 shows, he is no longer content with what he has. His success and good fortune have made him ambitious. Angry that the House of Hwang still owns much more land than he does, he covets the land that is not his, eager to bridge the wide gap in wealth and status that separates him from the rich House of Hwang. Greed has entered his soul.