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CHAPTER 32

After the soldiers leave, masons and carpenters are called in. The courtyards are cleaned, the garden pools freshened and restocked with goldfish and water lilies, and the flowering trees replanted. The slave woman gives birth to a girl, fortunately for Wang Lung, for as the mother of a son she would have claimed a place in the family. She takes care of the aunt in return for the promise of a husband when the old opium addict dies. Wang Lung keeps the promise and gives the slave to a poor farmer just as the Old Mistress long ago had given O-lan to him. The wheel of fortune has turned full circle, the Wang family has replaced the Hwangs.

The youngest son tells Wang that he wants to join the fighting to free the land of the old system. Wang doesn't understand-he thinks of the land as free because it is his and he can rent it to whomever he chooses. He offers the youth a bride, but the boy dreams of glory and adventure. When he expresses some interest in Pear Blossom, however, Wang Lung denounces him angrily. Something about the little slave affects him strongly. He and his son part in bitterness.

The frictions that are bound to arise in an extended family are well drawn in this chapter. Usually the quarrels among the women of the household are settled with an iron hand by the number-one wife. That would be O-lan's role if she had lived. But you may wonder how even she would have managed with her haughty first daughter-inlaw or her sharp-tongued second one, as well as the bad-tempered Lotus.

Wang does not understand his youngest son any better than he did the other two. This boy is aware of the political changes going on in China, and the revolution he talks of is probably the Communist movement that was already forming in China in the 1920s.

CHAPTER 33

Pear Blossom has been in Wang Lung's thoughts. One summer night, sitting alone in his court, he sees her going softly by and calls to her. He reminds her that he is an old man and she is young, but she doesn't mind because old men are kind. So Wang Lung finds a new love in his old age.


Cuckoo notices this new development, and teases Wang Lung, comparing him to the Old Lord before him. He bribes her to break the news to Lotus and buy her whatever presents will keep her quiet. The sons have various reactions. The second son talks of the tenants and says nothing about his father's new concubine. The eldest son seems envious, and Wang suspects he is thinking of a concubine for himself. The youngest son looks fiercely at Pear Blossom and dashes out of his father's court. The next day he is gone for good.

CHAPTER 34

Wang's last flare of passion dies away and his relationship with Pear Blossom becomes one of father to daughter. His one anxiety is for the future of his "poor fool," after he dies. He offers Pear Blossom poison with which to end the helpless creature's life after his own life ends. But Pear Blossom refuses and instead promises to look after his daughter herself.

Lotus has grown enormously fat and spends her time with Cuckoo eating, drinking, and gossiping. Wang goes among his grandchildren, who now number eleven boys and eight girls, but the boys snicker at his ignorance of the new ways and he is discouraged from visiting his sons' quarters. As for his third son, he is said to have become a high official with the revolutionary forces.

With no attachment any longer to the present, Wang moves back into the past, back to the old farmhouse with his retarded daughter, Pear Blossom, and a servant or two. He has chosen his burial place in the family enclosure, and he has his good coffin ready. Pear Blossom tells him that his eldest son has become an official in the town and has taken a second wife, and that his second son is setting up his own grain market.

When these two pay one of their rare visits to their father, he overhears them talking of how they will divide and sell the land. He cries out that they must not sell the land, that it will be the end of the family. They reassure him that they will not, but they smile at one another over his head.

The story of Wang Lung, his family, and his land ends. His sons' wealth is assured. The wealth came from the land but they mean to sell the land. Wang Lung's prediction of the end of the family may well come true, and the saga of a family's rise and fall will be complete. For Wang Lung himself, death is not feared but comes as a promise of rest, and of the peace that he never achieved, except on the land and briefly at the end with Pear Blossom.

NOTE:

Pearl Buck continued to describe the fortunes of the House of Wang in two sequels: Sons and A House Divided. The three sons become, respectively, a decadent landlord, a shady merchant, and a warlord called Wang the Tiger.

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