The Good Earth
Pearl S. Buck
Contributed by Bobbie Heil
Chapter 30

Once again, Wang thinks that peace has arrived in his household, but soon enough, his eldest son complains that their courts are not suitable for a family of their high stature. Wang cannot stand the whining and gives in, telling him that he can make modifications as he sees fit. The son quickly purchases exquisite furniture, rich fabrics, distinguished scrolls, and other luxuries. He brings in exotic plants for the pools and around the courts and repairs the gates and the walls, all while getting feedback from his wife, who is never satisfied.

Walking into and out of the house, Wang’s son has to pass through the outer courts, which are filled with the common people. He, like Wang, scorns their presence and arranges for a rent increase from the Hwang family, which makes the commoners angry since they are forced to leave. Wang, however, is ignorant to these negative feelings, since he remains in the court and does not go out often.

He also does not realize how much money is being spent, until one day, his second son tells him the exorbitant figures. Wang, always seeking peace, tries to resolve the issue quickly and tells the eldest son that no more money will be spent. There is a difference in ideology between father and son, since the son no longer wishes to be rooted in the land but instead to be viewed as a great family from town. Wang’s son sullenly agrees. He also mentions to his father how unhappy his youngest brother is, who has no schooling and is growing up ignorant.

Wang calls over his third son and he confirms what the eldest son says. Although Wang is distraught that now there are no sons left to tend the fields, he nonetheless tells the eldest one to engage a tutor for the youngest and let him do whatever he wishes, not wanting to be troubled by the matter. Wang then hands over the responsibility of overseeing the rents and the land to his second son, who is pleased to now be the financial head of the family and note all their income. Wang is surprised to see how frugal his second son is, sparing on all expenses and cutting corners where allowable. He even tries to pay the slaves and servants as little as possible, so that Cuckoo sneers at his cheapness, causing the eldest brother to be embarrassed. Therefore, the eldest brother, to keep up the appearance of immense wealth, secretly pays Cuckoo more money and resents his younger brother. So even on the happy occasion of the second eldest son’s wedding, there is bitterness between the two brothers and their families.

The first brother is always careful of appearances and is disappointed that his brother weds only a village maid. The second brother is particular with the amount of money spent by the family and is careful with monitoring his older brother’s expenses. The third brother, while not entangled in his brothers’ tiff, struggles to make up for his years without education. It seems only Wang’s grandson is at peace within the household, and looking at the playful child, Wang is happy himself. The grandchildren continue to multiply, so that each year brings a new birth, each requiring the addition of a new slave to tend to it. Wang is pleased that in only five years, he becomes the grandfather to four boys and three girls.

In these same five years, Wang also sees the death of his uncle on one cold winter day. Wang buys his uncle and aunt two good coffins to show them they were taken care of and allow them to die in comfort. After the uncle’s death, Wang moves the aunt into town to live with them. She is greatly shriveled from old age and the effects of the opium. Her husband is mourned by the Wangs for a year, as is suitable for a relative of a great family though none missed him. Wang is surprised that once he had been afraid of her, but now she was only an old ragged lady, like the Old Mistress in the diminished House of Hwang.

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