Now, evil, idle sons—sell the land! . . . It is the end of a family—when they begin to sell the land . . . Out of the land we came and into it we must go—and if you will hold your land you can live—no one can rob you of land. . . . If you sell the land, it is the end.
Wang Lung makes this speech in Chapter 34, at the end of the novel. He pleads with his sons not to sell his land, and although they assure him they will not, they smile over his head, silently amused at their own deception. Wang Lung’s speech is a final plea to honor man’s relationship with the land. He attempts with one last speech to make up for the damage his wealth and decadence have done to his sons’ perception of the earth’s importance. Wang emphasizes again the earth’s permanence and its place of central importance in human affairs, but by this point the reader knows his sons will never listen, so that Wang’s final words, “If you sell the land, it is the end,” grimly and clearly predict the impending downfall of the family Wang’s hard work and piety has made rich.