Part IV. Reckoning the Accounts. "Now the accounts are reckoned and the peasants are made to pay. The landlord's bookkeeper runs his fingers over the beads of the abacus. Land rent, house rent, extorionate taxes and levies and the many-times multiplied interest are added up into a debt that costs more than one's life to pay."
This scene tells us a great deal about the psychology of social relations in rural China. The older man, defeated by years of oppression, lies helplessly on the ground before the landlord and his bookkeeper, his debt to them having no doubt accumulated every year not matter how hard he worked. The younger man behind him, however, exhibits a rebellious spirit, his will to resist not yet completely eroded. The only thing keeping him from physically challenging those in power is that he is held back by his compatriots.