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The eldest son expresses his desire to leave town and go to the South to study and become a scholar. Wang refuses the request. No more is said about the son leaving, and he seems content to stay home. Then O-Lan reveals that the son is now visiting Lotus. Wang does not believe her, but when he unexpectedly returns home early one day, he finds his son with his concubine. An infuriated Wang flays his son senseless and finally decides to send him away.
This chapter reveals more problems in the House of Wang. The eldest son wants to leave home, to leave the land, which Wang does not allow. As a result, the son takes up a relationship with Lotus, who welcomes his young, smooth body as a replacement to Wang's old, coarse one. When O-Lan tells Wang about the relationship, he refuses to believe it until he discovers the pair together one afternoon. Wang is furious. Ironically, he takes his anger out on his son rather than the concubine. He beats his son unmercifully and sends him away.
The beating of the son may seem strange and heartless, but in Chinese culture, the father has supreme authority over his children, even to the point of killing a son out of anger. Wang is irate that his son has violated the Chinese custom of respecting an elder. In his mind, his own son has stolen from him. He is angry with Lotus and even raises his hand against her, but he is not capable of throwing her out as he does his son. She has not violated the tradition that he has. But his feelings for her are now forever changed.