Wang Lung’s land heals the damage his love has done to him. He directs his men and plows and hoes the earth, and when he tires he sleeps on the ground. At night he returns to Lotus’s court, and she’s disgusted by the dirt covering him. He tells her she’s a farmer’s wife, and she denies it. He only laughs. When he finally bathes before bed, he doesn’t do it for her, and he feels free.
Once again, Wang Lung’s land acts as a life-giving force. As he sleeps on the ground and gets dirt on his skin, he becomes a part of the land as he was before his wealth. Lotus takes the dirt as a sign of low status, but Wang Lung now finds himself able to embrace his true self no matter what social implications it has.
Wang Lung realizes he has much to do, and he works hard in the fields, his body hardening again. When he comes home for meals he eats O-lan’s simple food and breathes the smell of garlic onto Lotus, though she hates it. He’s no longer obsessed with her. Lotus gives him pleasure while O-lan keeps his house.
Liberated from his all-consuming passion, Wang Lung finds balance in his life. He lives simply as a farmer (consumption of garlic is a mark of the lower class) but also takes pleasure from the woman that his wealth has bought him.
Wang Lung is proud of other men’s jealousy of Lotus, because this shows his wealth. His uncle often brags about Wang Lung’s prosperity, and the village men respect him as a superior. They come to him for loans and advice.
Despite embracing the land again, Wang Lung still enjoys the social respect that goes along with his wealth. He becomes an important figure among the villagers.
Wang Lung has a good harvest that year, and he takes it to market with his eldest son. He’s proud to see his son reading and writing in front of the clerks, who admire his skill. He’s particularly happy when his son notices a mistake in a contract and can change it to be correct.
Wang Lung is proud to be able to give his son an education. His family begins to move up in the social world not only through wealth, but also through learning, a luxury that only the wealthy can afford.
When they’re walking home, Wang Lung decides that he must find his eldest son a wife so he doesn’t have to marry a slave as Wang Lung himself did. He discusses his son’s marriage with Ching, though he doesn’t expect him to be much help. Ching wishes he could offer his own daughter to the boy, but he doesn’t know where she is. Wang Lung thinks that he wants someone far superior to Ching’s daughter. Around town, Wang Lung listens to men talking about potential brides, but doesn’t say anything about it to anyone, particularly not his uncle’s wife, whom he doesn’t trust to find someone fitting.
Wang Lung wants to keep his family climbing the social ladder by making an advantageous marriage for his son. In the process, however, he slights the two people he should respect most in the world—O-lan, who was a slave when he married her; and Ching, who used to be his equal in poverty. Thus, Wang Lung’s desire for the respect of the wealthy makes him forget the noble qualities of his roots.
At New Year’s, men come to visit Wang Lung and say he can have no greater fortune than what he already has. Wang Lung knows this is true, but as spring comes, he still can’t find a proper wife for his eldest son. As the trees sprout leaves, his son becomes moody, worrying Wang Lung. No matter what he tells him to do, the boy won’t obey, and he refuses to tell his father what’s the matter. Furthermore, he stops going to school unless Wang Lung yells at him or hits him, and sometimes even then he wanders the town instead of going to school. When Wang Lung finds out, he beats the boy until O-lan intervenes, but the boy endures it without a sound.
The eldest son becomes the next difficulty in Wang Lung’s household that prevents him from enjoying his wealth as he wants to. Wang Lung sent his son to school as a privilege, but never having had to struggle as Wang Lung did, the boy more easily grows dissatisfied with his comfortable life. Wang Lung responds to his son’s bad attitude in a stereotypically masculine way, using violence rather than trying to gain the boy’s confidence to figure out what’s really going on.
One evening after Wang Lung beats his eldest son, O-lan tells him that the beatings will do no good. She’s seen the young lords in the House of Hwang act the same way, and when the Old Lord found women for them, their moodiness passed. Wang Lung protests that he didn’t have this problem himself, but O-lan points out that he was a farmer, and their son has no work. Wang Lung sees that he had no time to be moody when he was young. He’s proud that his son is more like a young lord, and he says he’ll marry him off soon.
Ironically, Wang Lung is glad that his son acts like a young lord even when it means that he acts in a way that Wang Lung doesn’t approve of, showing Wang Lung’s irrationality when it comes to advancing his social status. The family takes another step towards imitating the House of Hwang, as O-lan perceives. Significantly, the young lords’ constant lusts contributed to the Hwangs’ fall from wealth.