With his son married and his dead buried, Wang Lung consults Ching about the status of his land. Ching tells Wang Lung that the floods are once again upon them, at which news Wang Lung curses the gods. Ching tells him to be careful with blasphemy. Meanwhile, the village is woefully unprepared for the coming flood, as the official who was supposed to fix the dyke instead spent the money on his house. When the villagers arrive at his door he kills himself.
The flood eliminates two harvest years and famine returns to the land. Wang Lung has silver and gold stashed around his house, but this is not safe, as his uncle is part of the wild Red Beards gang that roams the area. Wang Lung knows he will have to pay for their protection. Meanwhile, his eldest son is wary of his cousin, who has been checking out his wife. He suggests that they kill the uncle's family. Wang Lung, who has always been gentle and soft-hearted, knows that he cannot kill. His son's second suggestion, that they palliate the uncle's family with opium, is more to his liking. After the uncle's son attempts to rape Wang Lung's second daughter, Wang Lung agrees to buy the opium. He sends his daughter to Liu's house to protect her virginity.
Wang Lung's uncle and his wife and his son soon indulge in the opium and peace reigns in the house once more. Wang Lung forbids anyone else in his house to touch the drug. There is soon good news in the household as well: Wang Lung will be a grandfather.
Summer arrives and those displaced by the famine return. Wang Lung loans them money at high interest, with their land as security. He also buys up much land. Other villagers offer to sell Wang Lung their daughters. Wang Lung buys five slaves to help with the household and the coming baby. One day a man comes with his daughter, and though Wang Lung finds her too small and weak he buys her because Lotus fancies her.
Wang Lung works hard on his land all summer, taking his third son along with him. He begins to wonder if he should relax more now, as he is no longer young and he has many men who work his fields for him. But while his fields thrive, Wang Lung's house continues to attract trouble. Wang Lung's lecherous nephew continues to eye his eldest son's wife as well as his servants. Wang Lung tells his son not to guard his wife too jealously, "as though she were a harlot" (286). Nevertheless, Wang Lung's eldest son wishes to move into the city. Wang Lung retorts that he will never leave the land, and the son says that they could buy the inner courts of the House of Hwang and live there. Wang Lung finds this idea attractive -- he enjoys the thought of living in such luxary and he wishes to keep his noisome nephew from ever reproducing -- and so consults with his second son.
The second son has grown up and thrives in the grain business. He agrees to move into town, and notes that then he could become married and live with his father. Wang Lung realizes that he has neglected his second son, who is a fine businessman, and agrees to find him a suitable wife. The second son's taste is nothing like his brother's: he wants a careful and frugal manager of his household.
Wang Lung goes to the Great House to buy it, and the old wife of the old gateman shows him the inner courts. They are filled with the poor, whom Wang Lung now feels revulsion for. Wang Lung decides that he will have this house.
The second famine in the book provides a clear contrast, charting Wang Lung's rise to power. Where he was once at the mercy of nature, now even the famine brings him the chance to grow stronger. He lends money, buys land, and acquires slaves. He is no longer one of them, but a great man.
However, Wang Lung must deal with more trouble at home. With his son's help, he neatly dispatches of the problem of his uncle's family -- he will keep them in an opium-induced stupor for the rest of their days. When even opium is not enough to quell the lust of his rotten nephew, Wang Lung agrees to move away. Wang Lung, though he has neglected his sons somewhat, shows himself capable of cooperating with them and acceptig their counsel, which speaks well for the future.
Wang Lung's second son emerges in this section as a coherent compliment to his first. Whereas the elder son is a scholar, fond of city ways and his delicate wife, the younger son is shrewd and practical. He has thrived in his business and wishes to have a wife more like his mother than Lotus. Thus each son expresses a half of Wang Lung -- his eldest captures his ambition for beautiful things, his younger captures his business-sense and work ethic. Neither son, however, seems to show Wang Lung's tender-hearted nature.
Wang Lung is well on his way to a total change. He was once a poor farmer cringing at the House of Hwan for a homely wife. Now he will own the Great House and rule over a vast farming operation. He has slaves, servants, gold and silver. Indeed, Wang Lung has almost forgotten his past poverty. He looks upon the poor with discomfort, as a stinky swarm to be tolerated or exploited. Indeed, as connected to the land as Wang Lung feels himself to be, he is disconnected from its people.
Even though O-lan is gone, note how her wise presence abides. For instance, the money in the walls of Wang Lung's house reflects back on her initial decision to hide their silver. Even as Wang Lung grows ever richer and haughtier, the lessons of O-lan seem to protect him.