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Chapter 4 and 5

Chapter 4

The next day, Wang Lung goes into town to buy eggs and red paper to celebrate his son's birth. Though he is boastful of his good fortune, he quickly becomes humble. He burns incense at the temple of the earth to ask for forgiveness and protection from the gods. He is comforted by his actions, knowing the great power of the gods to change a man's fortune as they ordained.
Soon, O-lan is strong enough to return to work in the fields with Wang Lung, attending to the grains. They also make plans for the winter fields, with Wang leading with the ox and O-lan following with the hoe.
Their baby son accompanies them outside and is well fed by O-lan's milk. He grows fat, and the entire family is equally prosperous. The winter harvests are profitable, and the family hangs dried onions and garlic all around their healthy home. Wang is frugal with the money he earns from the fields, and he makes sales at the appropriate times to make the greatest profit margin (unlike his uncle who sells immediately after harvesting, not waiting for the price to rise during the winter). Wang compares his own wife to his uncle's foolish wife, who seeks store-bought shoes instead of handmade ones, and sweet and expensive foods instead of homemade meals.
Wang celebrates the one-month marking for his son's birth by giving his family and friends dyed red eggs. Everyone envies his healthy and hardy son. The family continues to be prosperous through the winter, and soon it is spring again and the harvests are impending. New Year arrives, and Wang and O-lan refrain from visiting many of their neighbors, lest they become too intimate and they might begin to borrow money.
Instead, Wang remains at home and tends carefully to the farm equipment, mending what is broken and strengthening what is weak. O-lan does the same for the household tools, repairing what is cracked. Though they speak little, each approves of the good work of the other. From their good fortune and frugality, they manage to save a good deal of silver, which they store away, and Wang is proud of his secure situation.

Chapter 5

The family celebrates the New Year. Wang pastes good luck squares on his farm equipment and makes new dresses for the gods. O-lan prepares exquisite moon cakes, which the old man is eager to show to everyone. However, Wang, cautious in his new wealth, advises against the idea, only to hear O-lan explain the rich cakes are presents for the Old Mistress and are not to be eaten. Wang is pleased that the cakes are destined for the great house, in which he had stood meekly not long ago.
On the second day of New Year, O-lan prepares to take their son to the House of Hwang (as the old matriarch requested her to do when she initially left the House).
The family puts on their best clothing (which O-lan has carefully sewn) and proceeds into town. The turnaround from Wang's first appearance in the House is obvious from the gateman's demeanor. The gatekeeper is impressed and shows Wang great reverence. Wang sits in the waiting room, proud of his new improved status, and waits for O-lan and his son.
After the visit, Wang asks O-lan if all is well in the house, and he is shocked to learn that the Hwang family is not as prosperous as it once was. O-lan compares her new clothes to the shoddy old garments of the slaves, and she speaks highly of her own child against those of the Old Lord's. However, Wang and O-lan quickly act meek, for fear of angering the gods with excessive pride over their success.
The likely reason for the downfall of the great house is the ceaseless spending of the young lords, who have exhausted the treasuries. O-lan also learns that the family is even looking to sell some land, which shocks Wang, since land is so precious. He then gets the idea that he will buy the land with the silver he has saved. Although O-lan is initially reluctant, she agrees that it is a good idea (satisfied that she, who was once a slave in the house, is now going to own a portion of their great estate).

Browse all book notes

Historical Context
Main Characters
Points to Ponder
Did You Know
Plot Summary
Chapter 1
Chapter 2 and 3
Chapter 4 and 5
Chapter 6 and 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10 and 11
Chapter 12 and 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26
Chapter 27
Chapter 28
Chapter 29
Chapter 30
Chapter 31
Chapter 32
Chapter 33
Chapter 34


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