The new piece of land changes Wang Lung’s life. When he first buys it, he almost regrets his purchase, wishing he could have his money back. The land will take more work, and buying it wasn’t so wonderful as he’d imagined. When he got to the great house, the Old Lord was still asleep, and the gateman refused to wake him, because he was with a new concubine. Wang Lung had to deal instead with the Old Lord’s agent, who’s untrustworthy.
Wang Lung’s initial regret of his purchase proves that he bought the land just as much for the triumph of buying land from the Old Lord as an equal, but his failure to meet the Old Lord shows that simply having enough money to buy land doesn’t make Wang Lung an equal with the Hwangs. The Old Lord lives decadently, sleeping in with a concubine.
One day Wang Lung goes to look at his new land. He paces out how large it is and decides that he’ll replace the stones at the corners set with the seal of the House of Hwang with his own name. But he doesn’t yet want other people to know that he’s rich enough to buy this land. He thinks how little this land means to those in the great house, and hates that it means so much to him. He realizes how much of a difference there still is between himself and the House of Hwang. He decides that he’ll buy so much land from them that this plot will seem insignificant.
By replacing the seal of the House of Hwang with his own name, Wang Lung will take another symbolic step towards replacing the Hwang family itself. However, Wang Lung still hesitates to act as though he’s rich, afraid that others will take advantage of him if he does. For the first time, he gives voice to ambition, acknowledging his desire to become as rich as the Hwangs.
Wang Lung works hard throughout the spring. His father takes care of the baby so that O-lan can work in the fields. When Wang Lung notices that O-lan is pregnant again, he’s irritated that she won’t be able to help with the harvest, but she says that only the first pregnancy is difficult. Neither mentions the pregnancy again until that fall, when O-lan goes back to the house from working in the fields one day. It looks like it’s going to rain, and Wang Lung has to gather the ripe rice. Later in the day, O-lan returns to the fields, having given birth. Wang Lung wants to tell her to rest, but his own fatigue keeps him from doing so. He only asks whether the baby is a boy or a girl, and she tells him it’s a boy. He’s glad, and they work into the night.
Wang Lung was thrilled with O-lan’s first pregnancy, but his excitement has quickly turned to irritation. Even though a wife’s duty is to bear children, Wang Lung rarely remains satisfied with O-lan for long in whatever capacity she serves him, and now he values her work in the fields above her childbearing ability, thus giving her no support as she carries and births his child. O-lan, however, remains uncomplaining, showing incredible stamina as she returns to work immediately after giving birth. Wang Lung doesn’t appreciate her.
After dinner, Wang Lung goes to look at his new son and is pleased. He imagines that he’ll have another every year, and feels that O-lan brings him good luck. He tells his father that the eldest son will have to sleep with him now, and the old man is delighted, as he has long wanted the older son to warm him at night. When the older son sees the new baby, he understands that he can no longer sleep with his mother, and goes to his grandfather’s bed without protest.
Once Wang Lung no longer has to think about his crops, he does find satisfaction in his new son. Even now, however, he doesn’t appreciate O-lan’s hard work, but instead thinks only that she brings luck, something she can’t really control. The family is growing, and even the eldest son has a duty to the family at his young age—he will keep his grandfather warm.
Wang Lung has good harvests again and hides more money in the wall. The land he’s bought gives him even better harvests than his old land. Everyone comes to know that he owns the land, and people talk of making him the head of the village.
Wang Lung begins to make a name for himself as his success grows—money equals respect. The one piece of the Hwangs’ land affects his meager fortunes in a way it never could affect the Hwang’s great ones.