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Because of the continued drought, Wang Lung and his family are in dire straits. The children have all become angular with only protruding bellies. His baby daughter grows weak from malnourishment, and Wang calls her "poor fool". In this great hour of need, Ching, their neighbor, offers them some food. He obviously still feels guilty about his part in pillaging their home and is trying to make amends.
During this time of trouble, O-Lan gives birth to another baby girl. She knows they cannot provide for a girl-child, who will only be a burden to everyone. As a result, O-Lan quietly takes the baby's life. Wang realizes what O-Lan has done and admires her strength. It is Wang Lung's worst moment when he has to bury his murdered child. It is made even worse when he sees a dog nearby waiting to attack the body.
The next day, Wang's Uncle arrives with a few men and offers to buy Wang's land for a very small price. Though his children are hungry, Wang refuses to sell his land. He knows that in the future the good earth will again sustain him. Instead of selling his land, he sells all his furniture for two silver coins. Then out of necessity, Wang and O-Lan decide they must go South.
Wang Lung realizes the importance of his land and determines he will hold on to it no matter what. When his opportunistic uncle comes to him with a few land buyers, he shouts, "I shall never sell the land! Bit by bit I will dig up the fields and feed the earth itself to the children and when they die, I will bury them in the land." The uncle's vicious nature is further developed in this chapter. With devious means he has been sustaining himself, and now he tries to take advantage of the hardships of his nephew, forgetting his earlier advice about the Chinese custom of helping one's relatives.
Wang Lung realizes that O-Lan has killed her own daughter and knows it was not an easy thing for a mother to do. He is saddened by the situation, but unable to say anything to comfort her. Instead, he screams in anger at the gods. When he tries to dig a grave for the baby's body, he is too forlorn and weak to make a hole; he must simply leave the body on the ground. When he sees a starving dog hovering nearby, not even waiting for him to go before attacking the body, Wang, for the first time, is "wholly filled with despair." As a result, he determines that the family must move South in order to survive.