The Good Earth
Pearl S. Buck
Contributed by Bobbie Heil
Chapter 27

After the preparations for the wedding and funerals have passed, Wang is now free to mind the land and Ching tells him that it looks to be a flooding season this year. Wang curses the Heavens, even as Ching warns against it, and surveys his land to determine the best plan of action in case of flood. Sure enough, the dyke upriver bursts and many scramble to repair it, but the man charged with its administration embezzles the money and the people are devastated, more so without the repaired dykes. The heavy rains make all the homes appear as if on islands, and families and homes are left stranded amongst the great pools of water.

The rains continue, and there is starvation everywhere. Cuckoo wanted to continue to go to town, now by boat instead of walking, to purchase the expensive meats for Lotus, but Wang disapproves. Moreover, Wang carefully guards all food in the house, allowing each person their daily allotment and no more. But despite their frugality, the house is not in danger of starvation since Wang has silver stored away.

Yet, everywhere else, there is a great famine and Wang hears their cries, knowing that many of them hate him. Wang is sure that his house would have been ransacked already, if not for his uncle so he pays him and his family the extra courtesies to keep a good relationship. The three in the uncle’s family take advantage of these privileges and press Wang for more silver, better food, and other luxuries. Wang is forced to grant their wishes, all the while extremely bitter of the deference he had to show his uncle.

Wang’s eldest son’s friendship with Wang’s uncle’s son has ceased to exist, and the former now guards his wife from the eyes of the latter. He is extremely resentful of his father for harboring the leeches, but Wang explains the hard situation they are in. The son is horrified to hear of the circumstances and goes so far as to suggest killing the uncle and his family in order to free themselves of their awful obligation. Wang, however, cannot agree to that ridiculous solution. He then proposes that they get their relatives addicted on opium to render them lethargic and harmless, but Wang is wary of the high cost of opium.

The turning point arrives when the uncle’s son covets Wang’s second daughter, and Wang can see the lust in his eyes. Wang’s desperation leads him to send his second daughter to Liu the grain dealer, asking him to guard her virginity even though she is not of marrying age. Arriving at a final decision, before Wang returns home that day, he stops by the opium shop and purchases several ounces, no longer willing to be taken advantage of by his greedy family.

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