After Wang Lung sends his second daughter away, he offers his uncle the opium, pretending he’d bought it to help his father sleep. The uncle is happy about it and smokes the opium. Wang Lung buys pipes to leave around the house and pretends to smoke himself. He only lets his uncle’s family smoke the opium, and his house becomes more peaceful.
Wang Lung wants his uncle to think of the opium as a gift, another sign of his subservience to his uncle. Opium acts as a sedative, sending the user off into strange dreams while the user lies in bed, the drug slowly weakening the body.
One day the eldest son announces that his wife is pregnant. Wang Lung is joyful and has Ching buy good food for the pregnant woman to eat. The thought of the birth comforts him throughout the spring.
This pregnancy signals the beginning of the next generation of Wang Lung’s family and can be seen as a sign of Wang Lung’s success.
As summer approaches, people return from the south and come to borrow money from Wang Lung to reestablish their farms. He also buys land from them. Others sell their daughters instead, and he buys five slaves to wait on the family. Later, a man brings a thin young girl (Pear Blossom) to sell, and Lotus wants her, so Wang Lung buys her partly to satisfy Lotus and partly to feed the child into health.
Having weathered the famine without much trouble, Wang Lung now benefits from poorer people’s struggles as they come to him in need of money. In buying slaves, he again grows more similar to the Hwangs. It’s possible that the young Pear Blossom reminds him of how close he came to selling his eldest daughter.
Wang Lung goes across his land with Ching, discussing the soil, and brings his youngest son to teach him about farming. He never notices that the boy seems unhappy. Wang Lung wants peace in his house, but his eldest son still hates the uncle’s son. The son watches his cousin constantly and suspects him of mischief with the slaves and Lotus, though Lotus only cares about her food these days.
Once again, Wang Lung dictates what his children will do in accordance to what will benefit him and the family rather than asking what they actually want. Wang Lung must deal with an endless number of conflicts in his ever-growing household, and he hates this burden.
When Wang Lung returns from the fields, his eldest son says he can’t bear to have his cousin in the house anymore. He doesn’t bring up Lotus, because he’s embarrassed that he once lusted after her. Wang Lung doesn’t want this trouble, so he tells his son he cares too much about his wife. The young man hates to be accused of anything improper to his station. Wang Lung gets angry because he doesn’t want to deal with his sons’ lusts for women.
The cousin hasn’t submitted to the opium the way his parents have, so Wang Lung’s trouble with his uncle’s family isn’t completely solved. Furthermore, Wang Lung isn’t particularly good at dealing with family conflicts, as he often gets angry himself. The eldest son, growing up as Wang Lung made his fortune, cares particularly about acting in a socially correct way.
The eldest son suggests that they might move to town and leave the uncle’s family in the country. Wang Lung refuses to consider the suggestion, saying that the land has given them all they have. He makes a point of behaving like a rough farmer, though he’s secretly proud that his son isn’t one. His son says they could move into the inner courts of the House of Hwang, crying and saying he asks little of his father. Wang Lung is still ashamed by his first, timid visit to the House of Hwang, and his eldest son’s idea makes him imagine sitting in the Old Mistress’s place and acting as she did. He smokes and fantasizes about this.
Wang Lung finds himself torn between his love for the land and his roots and his constant desire to better himself in the world. He still isn’t ready to completely abandon his identity as a farmer, even though he no longer fully embraces it, either. But the idea of living in the House of Hwang takes hold of him because of the symbolism of it; he could at last completely overcome the humiliation that he experienced on his first visit to the great house.
Wang Lung makes no decision yet, but he does notice the despicable actions of his uncle’s son. His uncle and his uncle’s wife have been weakened by the opium and no longer make trouble, but their son doesn’t give in to it. He refuses to work and spends less time with the robber band, instead hanging around the house.
Though it might seem like a relief that the uncle’s son spends less time with the robber band, it also means that he has more time to cause trouble in Wang Lung’s household.
One day Wang Lung visits his second son at the grain market and asks what he thinks of the family moving to town. The second son approves, saying he could move there with a wife. Wang Lung feels ashamed that hasn’t made any plans for this son’s marriage, but he says he will.
Wang Lung again acts rather clumsily with his children’s lives. Notably, his children can’t acceptably make many decisions for themselves; instead, they must wait for their father to make plans.
The second son requests not to marry a woman from town like his brother’s wife, who will make him spend money. Wang Lung is surprised at this characterization of his eldest son’s wife, but he’s happy to find that this son he’s almost ignored has a good head for money. Wang Lung asks what kind of woman his son would like, and he says he wants a hardworking, thrifty woman from a good family in the village. Wang Lung admires his son and agrees to look for this sort of woman.
A contrast between the first and second son begins to emerge: The first likes to live luxuriously, while the second is a spendthrift. Either Wang Lung has failed to accurately observe his eldest son’s wife in his own house, or his second son is even more tight-fisted than Wang Lung himself, and thus judges his brother’s wife more harshly.
Wang Lung goes to the House of Hwang. There are common people everywhere in the courts, and an old man lives where the prostitute used to live. Years before, Wang Lung would have counted himself among the people in the courts, hating and fearing the rich. Now, however, he looks down on the common people and doesn’t like them. Going further into the courts, he comes upon the gateman’s wife, who has grown old. He realizes how long it’s been since he first came here, and he feels old himself.
The reversal of Wang Lung and the Hwang family continues. Whereas he once came here as a poor man when the house was rich, now he comes to a house of poverty as a rich man. He’s very aware of his initial visit to the house, but it doesn’t give him any sympathy with the commoners now, though he used to be one of them.
Wang Lung asks the gateman’s wife to let him into the gate she’s guarding. She says she can only let in someone who’s interested in renting the inner courts, and he says he is. He doesn’t identify himself, but follows her to the great hall where he first came before the Old Mistress. Wang Lung sits where she sat and looks down at the gateman’s wife. He feels satisfied and pronounces that he’ll take the house.
On his first visit, even the gateman looked down on Wang Lung. In another reversal, he now treats the gateman’s wife with disdain. Wang Lung then symbolically and climactically completes his rise to wealth as he’s always seen it, taking the place of the Old Mistress perched (literally) at the top of the social pyramid.