The Good Earth Chapter 5
It is almost the New Year, and preparations are being made in every household of the village. Wang Lung buys red papers of letters for happiness and sticks them on his tools, plow, ox buckle, and other farming implements for luck. His father makes new robes for the two gods of the earth temple. Wang Lung burns incense before the figurines for the New Year.
O-lan makes New Year cakes that no other woman in the village knows how to make. The cakes are to be taken to the Old Mistress at the House of Hwang when she takes the newborn son to see her. Hearing this, Wang Lung is more proud, feeling superior to his uncle and other neighbors who come to his house to feast.
On the second day of the New Year, dressed in their best clothes, Wang Lung and O-lan set out with their new son for the great house. When the gatekeeper of the great house greets them, Wang Lung regards him as inferior. While Wang Lung is waiting in the gatekeeper's room, O-lan goes into the courts with the baby. When she returns, she tells Wang Lung that the great house seems to be declining in its wealth. Listening to this, Wang Lung is extremely proud because he has done well, but suddenly shrinks in fear. Thinking that being openly happy will invite misfortunes, Wang Lung says aloud that the child is a female diseased with smallpox. This is meant to confuse the spirits who might mean him harm.
O-lan tells Wang Lung that it was inevitable that the wealth of the great house declined. The lords spend money freely, and the Old Master and the Old Mistress add on to the expenses with concubines and opium. When O-lan tells him that the family wishes to sell some of their lands, Wang Lung is shocked, exclaiming: "Sell their land! Then indeed are they growing poor. Land is one's flesh and blood." Chapter 5, pg. 37.
After thinking, Wang Lung cries that he will buy the Hwang land. Although O-lan initially opposes the idea because the land is too far, Wang Lung is adamant, and she is soon convinced. As though she cannot believe it, she says to herself: "Last year this time I was slave in that house." Chapter 5, pg. 38.