The Good Earth Chapter 23
Lotus complains and pouts when Wang Lung seems distracted during his visit. Wang Lung is pondering over what to do with his eldest son who must be married. Lotus tells Wang Lung of a man who used to frequent the teahouse and visit her occasionally. The man who was generous and courteous had a daughter he spoke of often. Cuckoo comes into the room to tell Wang Lung that the man is a grain merchant named Liu, and Wang Lung is excited because he sells his grain at his shop. Although Cuckoo is more than eager to go arrange the union between Wang Lung's son and Liu's daughter, Wang Lung wishes to wait.
One day in early morning, the eldest son comes home drunk. O-lan and Wang Lung have to support him into a room where he falls asleep. From the second son, Wang Lung learns that the eldest son has not been in school. Upon interrogating the son of his uncle, he learns that the son frequents the house of the whore who lives in what used to be the great house. She is an old, haggard prostitute who receives poor commoners. Wang Lung immediately goes to see the prostitute, reaching an agreement with her. She will refuse to see his son for money.
Returning home, Wang Lung tells Cuckoo to arrange the marriage between his son and the daughter of Liu. Looking at his sleeping son, Wang Lung is angry and frustrated that his young boy should have visited a prostitute like the woman he had seen. Angry, Wang Lung goes to his uncle to complain, but the uncle can only laugh. When Wang Lung yells at the old man, he is surprisingly indifferent to Wang Lung's threats. Suddenly opening his coat, he reveals a beard of red hair and a red cloth which are signs of a group of robbers called the Redbeards who wander around the northwest, doing terrible things to farmers and their families. Wang Lung, unable to say anything, goes out.
Wang Lung, not knowing what to do, is frightened. He can no longer afford to be rude to his uncle, for he does not know what the man will do. It is true that over the years, bandits have never harassed his family and his house. Although men and children were starving during hard times, Wang Lung's house was safe. Wang Lung had though that it was simply good fortune bestowed on him from the gods, but now he knows the reason. His uncle, one of the robbers, was the reason Wang Lung's house had been safe all this time. Generous and courteous to the uncle's family, Wang Lung thinks of moving within the city wall where he and his family will be safe, but cannot imagine being cut off from his land. It does not suffice as a solution.
Another solution would be to go to town and report his uncle to the magistrate, but no one would believe him, and he would most likely be punished for disrespectful conduct to the elderly.
Cuckoo returns to tell Wang Lung that the union between the two children has been agreed to, but Liu wishes to wait several more years because the girl is too young. Wang Lung is distressed because he does not know what to do with his son's ill temper.
The next morning, Wang Lung goes out to the fields so that the earth may do its healing working on him. Indeed, working in the fields heals Wang Lung of all the anger and frustration he has felt within his household. One day, the locusts come, threatening to destroy the crops. Although people are hopeless, Wang Lung, forgetting all his domestic troubles, is determined to fight the locusts. Some women visit the earth gods in the little temple with incenses.
Wang Lung and his laborers do whatever they can to save the fields, and even after the locusts come, Wang Lung's best fields are salvaged. After having had nothing to think about but his land for seven consecutive days, Wang Lung is healed. After having fought the locusts, Wang Lung does not deem his domestic troubles as overly serious or burdensome.