Wang Lung was the son of a peasant farmer. When it came for him to marry, his
father chose a slave girl from the house of Hwang who was hardworking. O-lan, Wang
Lung’s wife was a good wife for Wang Lung. She did not waste anything, and made
items such as shoes for the family so Wang Lung could save his money for other things..
She worked endlessly for Wang Lung and his father, and even helped Wang Lung plow
the field. One day while helping on the field, O-lan went inside and bore their first child.
Luckily, it was a boy. Girls at that time were always slaves, or married to other family’s
sons. They named him Nung Wen.
Before leaving the house of Hwang earlier, O-lan promised to bring their first child
to pay respects to the house. That year, the harvest was good, so Wang Lung bought new
clothes for O-lan, the baby, and himself. After paying their respects, Wang Lung made a
deal with the house of Hwang and bought a plot of good land just outside the house. One
year later, another boy was born and was named Nung En.
Wang Lung’s third child was a disaster. Not only was it a girl, but she was born
retarded. That summer, a drought hit the area where Wang Lung lived, and it did not rain
for months. There was little harvest, and soon all of the wheat was gone. Starving, Wang
Lung had his ox killed for food, but could not bear to watch because the beast had been so
faithful to him. Not having any money, Wang Lung sold the furniture in his house for a
few silver pieces. His fourth child was born in the drought, and was born dead. The
family was forced to move South to find food, so with the money he made from selling the
furniture, Wang Lung paid train fare to go down south.
On the train, Wang Lung spent some more money to buy material so they could
build a hut when they reached the city. At the city, they built their hut, and discovered a
kitchen where for almost no money at all, a person could eat all of the rice they wanted.
Wang Lung bought enough rice for his family, and they ate it heartily. Now, Wang Lung
needed money again, so the next day he rented a ricksha to transport the rich around the
city for money, and O-lan and the children begged for money. After paying the rent for
the ricksha, Wang Lung did not make a lot, but it was enough to support his family for
another day or so. They did this all through the winter, each day earning just enough
money to make it to the next.
One day, after the rich men left, soldiers came in and fought with the enemy that
was approaching them. The poor took advantage of this, and raided the rich man’s house.
O-lan, knowing the ways of the rich, found a secret stash of expensive jewels, and Wang
Lung got a handful of gold after threatening a rich man who was hiding. With this money,
Wang Lung returned home with his family.
When Wang Lung got back, he repaired his home which was damaged by weather.
Within the next six years, Wang Lung bought much more land from the house of Hwang,
his first two sons began attending school, and he hired seven men to work the land
including a neighbor Ching, and O-lan had borne him twins, a boy, and a girl. Wang Lung
also discovered that O-lan had hidden a pouch full of expensive jewels from him that she
found in the rich man’s house. When Wang Lung found the jewels, he took them all from
her except for two pearls that O-lan liked.
So the men worked well until there was a great flood. All of the land was flooded
and could not be farmed. It was then that his uncle, his uncle’s wife, and son came to live
with Wang Lung. During this flood, the neighbor’s houses were robbed, but Wang
Lung’s house was not. He found out that his uncle was second to the chief of the robbers.
Knowing this, Wang Lung was forced to let his uncle’s family live with him, or he would
be robbed or even murdered. Not being able to farm, Wang Lung began visiting the city
for entertainment. He discovered a tea shop where he fell in love with a woman named
The Lotus Flower. After a month of seeing Lotus, he bought her from the tea shop and
took her home as a concubine. O-lan did not like this, but Wang Lung would not let
Lotus live anywhere else, so he built a courtyard with adjacent rooms for Lotus to live in.
The courtyard had a small pool, and Wang Lung bought only expensive foods for his
When Wang Lung found out that his older son was seeing Lotus when he was
away, he decided to have him married to a grain merchant’s daughter. The wedding took
place, and shortly afterwards, O-lan died of a stomach illness, and soon afterwards, Wang
Lung’s father died. Wang Lung then apprenticed his younger son to the grain merchant
Liu, and his youngest daughter was betrothed to Liu’s young son.
Thinking of a way to get rid of his uncle and his wife, he persuaded them to start
smoking opium that he had paid for. Once they became addicted, they were too busy with
the drug to bother Wang Lung. But, his uncle’s son did not take the opium, and began to
annoy Wang Lung’s older son’s wife by talking dirty and walking around with his robe
open. Seeing this, Nung Wen became very angry and Wang Lung rented a portion of the
house of Hwang. The uncle and his wife were left in the country with their opium, and the
uncle’s son left to join the army.
When Ching died, Wang Lung stopped farming and rented out his land, hoping
that his youngest son would tend the land, but when he took a girl that his youngest son
liked, his youngest son ran away from home and joined the army.
When Wang Lung’s death came near, he moved back to the country to be with his
land. He brought only his slave Pear Blossom, that his youngest son loved, and his first
daughter that was simple. One day as he was looking at the fields with his sons, he heard
them talking about how they were going to spend their inheritance and what they would
do with the money they would make from selling the land. Wang Lung cried out that they
must never sell the land because only with land could they be sure of earning a living. But
Wang Lung did not see his sons look at each other over his head and grin.