Before long, Wang Lung’s passion for Pear Blossom passes, but he’s still fond of her and glad to have her around. She’s kind to his eldest daughter. Wang Lung worries what will happen to the poor fool when he dies, so he’s bought poison that he intends to give her when he’s about to die, though he dreads this. He tells Pear Blossom that since no one will take care of his daughter after his death, she must feed her the poison when he dies. Pear Blossom doesn’t want to kill her, and she offers to take care of the poor fool in return for Wang Lung’s kindness to her. He’s very glad, but makes Pear Blossom accept the poison anyway, in case she dies before his daughter.
Pear Blossom becomes more like a companion than a concubine, particularly when compared to Lotus, who’s a true concubine. Though this society so values familial responsibility, no one besides Wang Lung seems to think this applies to his eldest daughter, probably because she’s disabled and a woman. It seems rather unfair of Wang Lung to place the burden of killing his daughter onto Pear Blossom, suggesting that (just as he did with O-lan) he doesn’t really think she has her own feelings and desires.
Wang Lung is usually alone except for Pear Blossom and his eldest daughter. He worries about Pear Blossom, but she insists she’s happy. Once he asks her why she’s so afraid of men, and she says she hates every man except for him. However, she won’t tell him whether Lotus and Cuckoo have frightened her with stories or if something bad happened to her.
Pear Blossom’s hatred of men is one of the only examples of a female character actually acknowledging the despicable way in which most of the male characters treat women. Since her background remains shadowy, her hatred can expand to all of the misogynistic acts that occur throughout the book.
As the years pass, Wang Lung sits in the sun like his father did. Sometimes he visits Lotus, who sits talking and eating with Cuckoo as a friend. When Wang Lung goes to his sons’ courts, he asks how many grandchildren he has and examines them when they gather around him, seeing likenesses of himself, his father, and Liu. He asks them what they study in school and finds that it has changed since the Revolution. He knows nothing about this Revolution, as he’s always been too busy to bother with it.
Finally, Wang Lung has the peace in his house that he’s desired for years, a reward for a life full of hard work. He’s assured that his family line will continue on after his death, and even those he knew are being reproduced in miniature, gesturing to the cyclic nature of this story. The fact that Wang Lung doesn’t know about great government changes proves that he’s like the land, remaining unaffected by outside forces.
Wang Lung asks Cuckoo about his sons’ wives, and she tells him that his eldest son seems to be thinking of taking a concubine, and often visits the tea shops. She also tells him that she’s heard his youngest son is a military official in the Revolution, but she doesn’t know what it is. Wang Lung finds he can’t focus on these things, as his mind wanders. He thinks only about keeping his body warm and fed.
Wang Lung has retreated from his family to the extent that he has to ask Cuckoo for the latest gossip about them. The eldest son follows in his father’s footsteps, but without Wang Lung’s tendency to return to hard work. Wang Lung is done worrying about complicated issues and wants only simple comfort in his old age.
As Wang Lung grows old, he keeps his love of the land, and he goes out to it every spring. Sometimes he sleeps in his old house. One day he wanders to the burial plot and remembers those who he buried there, clearly recalling all of them and his second daughter whom he married away. He looks at the spot where he will be buried and decides he needs to get a coffin.
Wang Lung remains loyal to the land, even if his sons don’t. His return to his old house and his fond recollection of the past suggests that his life of pleasure in the House of Hwang might not have been as wonderful as he hoped, and he finds comfort in simplicity.
Wang Lung returns to town and sends for his eldest son, but when he arrives Wang Lung can’t remember what he wanted to say. He asks Pear Blossom to help him, and she asks him where he was on his land, which makes him remember. Wang Lung tells his son where he wants to lie and that he needs a coffin. His son buys him a wooden coffin that will last forever, and Wang Lung keeps it in his room. It comforts him. Soon he moves back to his house on the land with Pear Blossom and his eldest daughter.
Wang Lung seems to live in the past more than in the present, as he can remember the past clearly, but immediately forgets what happens in the present. The fact that he initiates the buying of his coffin and it gives him comfort suggests that he feels ready for death and satisfied with his life. He now returns to the land, aware that it’s his true home.
Wang Lung lives peacefully, thinking often about his land, but not worrying about planting or harvests. He thinks gladly of his coffin and his place in the earth. His sons come to visit him often, and if they don’t he complains to Pear Blossom. She says they’re busy, as the eldest son holds a position in the town and the younger son has his own grain market. Wang Lung doesn’t really understand.
At the end of his life Wang Lung finds particular comfort in the land that has always been there for him. He will soon return permanently to the earth that has given him life and wealth, and in death he will become a part of the earth’s constancy. Though his sons have achieved the social success he worked for, it no longer seems important now.
One day Wang Lung follows his sons out onto the land. He comes up to them silently and hears them discussing how to sell the land and share the money. Wang Lung cries out and weeps. They assure him they won’t sell it, and he says families fall apart when they sell their land. He holds a handful of dirt. They say over and over that they won’t sell the land, but they smile at each other over his head.
This ending signals the final tragedy of the book, which is the undoing of all Wang Lung’s hard work. Though nothing is certain, these final lines imply that the sons will betray Wang Lung and sell his precious land, and if the Hwangs are any indication, the family will then go on to lose the fortune that Wang Lung created. However, it’s also possible that the world is changing, and land will no longer be as important as it was—perhaps also a tragedy.