Wang Lung's bad luck continues, and he feels like the gods have turned against him permanently. The summer rains fail to come, and the earth remains parched and starving for water. After his wheat crop is doomed, he turns his attention to his rice beds and carries water to them every day. Wang's hard work goes without reward, for as the calluses from the strain appear on his skin, still no rain arrives and even the pond dries.
O-lan reminds him that the family needs water, but Wang angrily explains that all their lives depend on the land. As soon as the grain is harvested, Wang sells immediately and with the silver, he rushes to the House of Hwang to purchase more land. The Hwang family has come upon hard financial times, blaming their land agent for the money troubles. The hapless agent then, hearing Wang's offer of money, seizes the opportunity, and Wang becomes the owner of even more of Hwang's land, but Wang tells no one.
Months go by, and the situation grows worse. Food is in such short supply that the family even resorts to grinding corncobs for a meal. Only the baby enjoys rich milk from O-lan, but that too fades away when O-lan realizes that she is pregnant again.
Finally, the day arrives when the family is too desperate, and Wang's old father decides that their ox must be killed for food. Wang protests, unable to bear the thought of killing his faithful companion in the fields. But Wang finally relents, when his children cry out in hunger, but he tells O-lan that he cannot do it. O-lan takes on the task, while Wang buries his ears to avoid hearing the ox's moans, and the family eats healthily until the last of the ox is gone.
All this time, the village has been building up resentment against Wang because everyone thinks he has food and money stored away. The loudest antagonist is Wang's uncle who enflames his neighbors with false tales about Wang and his supposed wealth. One night, the villagers descend upon Wang's house, only to find that he is equally unfortunate. O-lan's pleas stop the men from stealing their furniture, but the looters part with the rest of the family's meager food supplies. Despite their loss, the family understands that the men are not truly evil except when faced with these circumstances. The appearance of Wang's good friend Ching, ashamed that he is stealing a handful of beans, proves them right. Wang is devastated, but he reaffirms his faith that though he has nothing, he still has the land.
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Points to Ponder
Did You Know
Chapter 2 and 3
Chapter 4 and 5
Chapter 6 and 7
Chapter 10 and 11
Chapter 12 and 13