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After O-Lan has passed away, a disaster occurs in the village; the dikes break and flood the land. Most of the villagers are driven to poverty, but Wang has provided for emergencies and is still well off. His life, however, is not easy. The Uncle's son tries to molest his daughter, so he sends her to live with the family of her betrothed, as a measure of protection. Wang's son, who is possessive about his wife, fears that his cousin desires her; he implores his father to get rid of the uncle and his family, who Wang still supports out of fear. Since Wang knows he cannot toss them out without retribution, the son decides they must supply their opium habit. If they have enough opium, which is very expensive, they will not be able to function and, thus, can cause no harm. Wang begins to buy opium for his uncle and his family on a regular basis.
In this chapter, Wang's domestic problems are described. The uncle and his family continue to plague him. The uncle's son tries to molest his daughter; he also has desires upon the wife of Wang's son. Fearing an attack from the bandits if he puts his uncle out, Wang simply puts up with the family as best he can. Wang's son, however, wants to immobilize the family if they cannot get rid of them. He suggests buying them large quantities of opium, which will render them harmless. Wang reluctantly agrees to the plan.
Because of his domestic troubles, Wang keeps cursing the gods in spite of the prosperity of his lands. This attitude frightens Ching, for he is in awe of the gods. Wang, however, feels almost superior to his idols; he feels that nothing can come in his way now and that no evil can take away his wealth.
Due to the opium, the uncle and his family, now in a state of bliss and oblivion, are no longer a threat. The wife of Nun En, the eldest son, is now with child, which pleases Wang Lung. He buys a few slaves for his house and a small, delicate girl for Lotus.
Nun En is still suspicious of his cousin and proposes to Wang that they move the immediate family to the inner Courts of the House of Hwang. The younger son agrees to the idea, saying that he too could wed and they all could live together in one house. His desire is to have a comely village maid, who will be a good cook and shrewd enough to manage the household.
Wang Lung goes to the Great House. At the outer courtyards, the commoners live, but the inner courts have been left vacant. Seeing the great rooms and remembering the old mistress residing there, Wang, on an impulse, decides to buy the House of Hwang.
In this chapter, the marked difference between the two sons is displayed. The elder one does not have any ties to the land; he loves opulence and an easy style of living. It is his suggestion to move the family to the inner courts of the House of Hwang. The younger son has an attachment to the land; he is also more practical, as seen by his desire for a plain wife who can cook and handle the domestic chores.
When the sons mention their desire to change residences to their father, Wang is upset at the suggestion; however, when he learns that they want to buy the House of Hwang, he grows interested. He still remembers how this family treated him in the past, and to live in their house will be some type of retribution for Wang. When he goes to look at the house, he buys it on impulse. This bold step marks a significant change for Wang since he will no longer be living on his land; but he is attracted to the social prominence the residence will give him. It will be a symbol of his success and prosperity.