Chapter 30 Notes from The Good Earth

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The Good Earth Chapter 30

Everyday, Wang Lung sits in his chair in the sun, smoking his water pipe and resting while others work his land to bring him money and harvest. Wang Lung would be at peace if only the eldest son would leave him alone, but there are many things that the eldest son wishes for such as new tables, bowls, and chairs. He also complains about the dirty commoners living in the front courts, suggesting that the family buy the courts to drive the poor people out. Because Wang Lung is annoyed to be bothered by his son, he leaves the son to do whatever he likes.

The son spends money as he likes, buying new things for the house. When he passes the outer courts where the commoners are, he walks by haughtily, and the commoners laugh at him for having forgotten that his father was once a common farmer. Later, the common people are driven out because the rent fees for the rooms have been increased. Although they know that Wang Lung's eldest son has arranged this through the son of the Old Lord Hwang, they are helpless to do anything about it. All they can do is tell themselves angrily that they will come back "even as the poor do come back when the rich are too rich." Chapter 30, pg. 224.

Wang Lung does not know all of this because he is always sleeping and eating while his son arranges everything. His son has carpenters and masons repair the room that the common people used. He decorates the courts with pools of fish and flowers. The son and his wife look over the courts together and discuss what else needs to be done. People in town no longer call Wang Lung "Wang the Farmer," but "Wang the Big Man" or "Wang the Rich Man." In the meanwhile, a lot of money is spent, but Wang Lung does not realize it until the second son comes to him to complain that too much money is being spent in the house. Wang Lung tries to soothe him by telling the second son that it is all for his wedding, but he persists in his disapproval.

Wang Lung soon calls the first son to admonish him, but the son tells Wang Lung that it is necessary for the family to live up to what everyone else is calling them-"the great family Wang." Although Wang Lung is secretly proud and happy, he tells his son to stop spending so much money. The son complies but wishes to discuss the matter of his youngest brother who, according to him, should not grow up so ignorant. Wang Lung insists on having at least one of the sons on the land, but the eldest son tells him that the brother cries at night because he is unhappy. Wang Lung begins to think seriously about his third son whom no one pays much attention. After his conversation with the eldest son, Wang Lung calls for his tall, thin boy who is as grave and silent as O-lan was. When Wang Lung asks him if it is true that he does not want to work on the land, the boy again answers that it is so, and in turn, Wang Lung becomes angry. It seems to him that his sons are all very troublesome; daughters see to be far better children. The second daughter has gone to the home of her betrothed and the other, the poor fool, never says anything. Nevertheless, after his anger has passed, Wang Lung allows a tutor for the third son, and turns over all his financial matters to the second son.

Wang Lung's second son is the most puzzling to him because he, unlike the first son who is proud and conscious of the opinions of others, is exceedingly calculating and careful with money. The first son, contemptuous of his stingy brother, is haughty to the village bride of his brother on the wedding day. Wang Lung's sons are all very different. The eldest son does not want the family to be anything less than a great house whereas the second son is more concerned about conserving money. The youngest son is trying to learn as much as he can. The only one in the house who is completely worry free seems to be the grandson of Wang Lung who is always content and happy. Wang Lung derives comfort and happiness from watching his grandchild. As the years lapse, the eldest daughter-in-law continually conceives and bears, and soon Wang Lung sees many children running around the house. The second son's wife also gives birth, but it is only a girl. This, however, is appropriate because it is out of respect to the wife of the eldest son.

The winter of the fifth year is colder than any other winter in recent memory. The uncle and his wife lie on their beds everyday. Having smoked opium for a long time, they are "like two old dry sticks." When Wang Lung buys two coffins for them, the uncle is comforted to know that he will be well provided for even after death. One evening, the uncle is found dead. Wang Lung buries him beside his father and causes the whole family to enter into a year of mourning only because it is appropriate to do so in an established family. The uncle's wife is moved into the town house where she smokes opium on her bed everyday. Wang Lung is astonished to see a once shrewish, fearful woman lying, helpless, yellow, and withered.

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