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CHAPTER 4

Wang buys the red sugar for O-lan's drink, the eggs to be colored, and-suddenly fearful of his fortune-four sticks of incense, one for each member of the family, to burn before the little earth gods.

Soon O-lan is working beside Wang again. The harvest is gathered, the threshing must be done, and then the fields need to be plowed and planted again for winter wheat. The baby sleeps on an old quilt on the ground, and when he wakes O-lan feeds him. Because she has an abundance of milk, the well-fed baby is fat and good-natured. The harvest, too, is plentiful. The little house is crowded with jars of woven reeds brimming with wheat and rice. Wang stores his surplus against winter and high prices. From the rafters hang strings of garlic and onions, and a leg of pork and two chickens that O-lan has salted down for the winter.


Wang Lung and O-lan celebrate their child's first month with a feast of noodles (for long life) and distribute the reddyed eggs. The winter rains come, and the winter wheat sprouts. With no farm work to do, the farmers visit one another, drinking tea and gossiping. Wang Lung does little of this, however. Instead, he enjoys quiet hours spent mending farm implements, with O-lan nearby repairing earthen jars and household tools and making clothes and cloth shoes for the family. Husband and wife speak little but are content in each other's company.

When Wang Lung sells his produce he has a good handful of silver pieces above what they need. O-lan digs a hole in the earthen wall of their bedroom, Wang thrusts in the silver, and she closes the hole with a clod of earth.

Some disturbing comments are introduced into this scene of prosperity and contentment. Wang Lung doesn't want to let his neighbors see his plenty. They will be envious or ask to borrow. He is also afraid to let his neighbors know that he has silver hidden away. A contrast is drawn with his uncle, a lazy man and a gambler, and the uncle's equally lazy wife. Their house is ramshackle, their children are unruly, and the uncle sells his produce at the peak of harvest and at the lowest price for ready cash. You can expect to hear more of this shiftless uncle and his family. Remember to think about how silver is used to symbolize wealth apart from the land.

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