The Good Earth Chapter 12
Wang Lung gradually gets used to the city and its inhabitants, but he and his family are still like foreigners in a strange place. Kiangsu, the city, is very different from Anhwei, Wang Lung's birthplace. Everything seems hurried; everyone seems impatient. Wang Lung, his family, and the rest of the people in the village of huts never feel like they are part of the busy city of extravagance.
One day, Wang Lung is hailed by a strange-looking creature dressed in a black robe. He cannot make out whether the creature is a male or a female, but can understand that the person wishes to go to the Street of Bridges. As he begins to pull, he asks around to discover that the creature is a female foreigner from America. At the destination, the woman gives him twice the usual fare. Back at the hut, O-lan tells him that the foreigners are the ones from whom she will beg because they readily give money. Wang Lung realizes that in the city, there are those who are more foreign than him.
Another thing that Wang Lung learns about the city is that there is a general abundance of food. In the city, markets are filled with various foodstuffs, and no one seems to starve. Day after day, Wang Lung and his family go to the public kitchen to be fed because they can never afford to get enough money to cook in their hut. Whenever they have any extra money, the family buys some cabbage to cook, and the boys steal fuel from the fuel carts in the streets. One day, the eldest son returns with a swollen eye because he was caught stealing by a farmer. The second son is more skilled. One night, Wang Lung comes home to find pork. When he discovers that the younger boy stole it, Wang Lung throws the pork and beats his son. O-lan is indifferent to the boy's stealing, however, calmly putting the meat back into the pot. Wang Lung is distraught because he cannot bear to have his sons growing up as thieves. He thinks to himself that they must go back to the land.