Wang Lung and his sons hire carpenters and masons to repair the courts where the soldiers were staying. Wang Lung assigns the slave who’s pregnant with the uncle’s son’s child to serve his uncle’s wife, and the slave gives birth to a girl. He promises the slave the uncle’s wife’s room once she dies. He tries to give her silver, but she asks him to use it as a dowry and marry her off. He promises to do so, thinking that whatever poor man he finds to marry her will be like he was, coming to the House of Hwang to marry a slave. He hasn’t thought of O-lan in years, and now he thinks of her sadly.
In his position as a family relation to the uncle’s son, Wang Lung takes on the responsibility that he has shirked to take care of the woman he impregnated. This slave woman represents the passage of time and generations: She’ll replace her partner’s mother in the house as her baby carries on the uncle’s line, and her marriage will complete the cycle of Wang Lung’s ascendancy in the House of Hwang.
Before long, the uncle’s wife dies. Wang Lung sends for the farm laborer who accidentally caused Ching’s death. Wang Lung sits on the dais where the Old Mistress used to sit and presents the laborer with the slave as his wife, feeling how strange his position is. When it’s done, Wang Lung feels like he’s achieved everything he meant to, and he can have peace as soon as he weds his youngest son.
Though Wang Lung once beat this laborer, he seems to see something of himself in him. In this odd reenactment of his first visit to the House of Hwang, the laborer takes Wang Lung’s place while Wang Lung plays the part of the Old Mistress. Even Wang Lung recognizes that his life has come full circle.
However, his sons’ wives begin to quarrel with each other and scold each other’s children. They never forget the uncle’s son’s appraisals of them, and they always use his words to insult each other. The sons also clash because the eldest son worries about his social status, and the second son worries about his brother’s waste of money. The elder son doesn’t like it that his brother controls the money. Wang Lung has no peace.
Even when the last of the uncle’s family has gone, their influence in the house continues to plague Wang Lung. Furthermore, the very presence of money causes problems that never existed when Wang Lung was poor. He just wants to relax and enjoy the fruits of his labor, but his family causes constant trouble.
Ever since Wang Lung protected Pear Blossom from his uncle’s son, Lotus has disliked her and accuses Wang Lung of lusting after her. Wang Lung thinks of Pear Blossom only as a child until Lotus says this, but then he realizes that she’s very pretty after all. Lotus considers selling Pear Blossom but needs the girl to wait on her, which makes Lotus bad-tempered. Wang Lung stays away from her and thinks about Pear Blossom.
The women in this book are often jealous of each other, which prevents them from ever finding common ground in their mistreatment by men. Ironically, Lotus has no reason to be jealous of Pear Blossom until she voices her jealousy. Once again, Wang Lung’s idleness leads him into lust.
Wang Lung’s youngest son has long been absorbed with his books, but when the soldiers were in the house, he listened to their stories of war with fascination. Finally he tells Wang Lung that he wants to become a soldier. Wang Lung argues with him, saying he’s too good a man to become a soldier, but the boy has made up his mind. Wang Lung offers to send him to any school he wants and says it’s disgraceful for a wealthy man’s son to become a soldier. The boy says that there’s a revolution coming that will free the country. Wang Lung doesn’t understand how the country could be freer than it is.
Wang Lung still doesn’t like his children to have minds and desires of their own. He feels that the military is socially beneath someone of his family’s standing, and having worked so hard to get here, he doesn’t want to see his son fall down the social ladder again. Furthermore, his son exhibits a political consciousness and a vision for change completely beyond Wang Lung’s understanding of the world.
Wang Lung thinks that he has given his youngest son everything he could desire, but he decides he must need a wife or a slave. The boy says he’ll run away, since he doesn’t want a woman. He wants glory, and he points out that the slaves in the house are all ugly besides Pear Blossom. Wang Lung suddenly feels jealous and tells his son to keep away from the slaves, though he just offered his son one. Wang Lung can’t understand his own anger.
Wang Lung tries to use the same remedy on his youngest son that worked on his elder son and his uncle’s son. He has trouble understanding that the youngest son is a different person, with different desires. Wang Lung’s incomprehensible anger shows that he’s not acknowledging his own feelings for Pear Blossom.