The Joy Luck Club

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An-mei Hsu Character Analysis

An-mei is the narrator of “Scar” and “Magpies,” and her stories revolve around the sacrifices of her disgraced mother. When she is four, An-mei’s father dies and her mother is exiled from the family for remarrying and becoming a rich merchant’s lowly fourth wife, rather than remaining a widow forever. An-mei’s mother returns to take An-Mei to her second husband Wu Tsing’s house after An-mei’s grandmother, Popo, dies. At Wu Tsing’s, An-mei and her mother are treated terribly by Second Wife, who controls the household. An-mei’s mother eventually commits suicide on a date that frightens the superstitious Wu Tsing, giving power back to An-mei.

An-mei Hsu Quotes in The Joy Luck Club

The The Joy Luck Club quotes below are all either spoken by An-mei Hsu or refer to An-mei Hsu. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Books edition of The Joy Luck Club published in 2006.
Part 1, Chapter 1 Quotes

Not know your own mother? How can you say? Your mother is in your bones!

Related Characters: An-mei Hsu (speaker), Jing-mei “June” Woo, Suyuan Woo
Page Number: 40
Explanation and Analysis:

At the end of this chapter, June's mother's friends, the members of the Joy Luck Club, are outraged that June claims to know so little about her own mother--June is an American citizen, and her knowledge of her mother is limited to their experiences in America. June knows little to nothing about her mother's life back in China, and she shows little interest in learning about it.

The function of the Joy Luck Club, we begin to see, isn't just to play games--it's also to preserve the memories of the past; i.e., of life in China. In such a way, Tan lays out the basic structure of the novel: June will learn about her mother from the other members of the Joy Luck club, and gain new respect for her mother and her mother's culture.

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Part 1, Chapter 2 Quotes

My mother took her flesh and put it in the soup. She cooked magic in the ancient tradition to try to cure her mother this one last time. She opened Popo’s mouth, already too tight from trying to keep her spirit in. She fed her this soup, but that night Popo flew away with her illness. Even though I was young, I could see the pain of the flesh and the worth of the pain.

Related Characters: An-mei Hsu (speaker), Popo, An-mei’s mother
Page Number: 48
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, An-Mei Hsu, one of the old members of the Joy Luck Club, tells a story about her grandmother, or Popo. When An-Mei was a child, she remembers her mother trying to cure Popo of her illness by cutting off a piece of her own body and putting it in a soup. Her mother fed the soup to Popo, but to no avail.

The passage symbolizes the direct, even physical bond between a mother and a child. Throughout the novel, we'll see how mothers owe a certain debt to their children, and vice versa. Here, An-Mei's mother honors her "debt" to her own mother by giving back a part of herself, in soup-form. The bond between generations can be painful, certainly, but it's also a mark of love--albeit a more complex love than June is inclined to respect.

Part 3, Chapter 3 Quotes

“A mother is best. A mother knows what is inside you," she said above the singing voices. "A psyche-atricks will only make you hulihudu, make you see heimongmong."

Related Characters: An-mei Hsu (speaker), Rose Hsu Jordan
Page Number: 188
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Rose describes her complex relationship with her mother, An-Mei. An-Mei was a charismatic mother, whose hypnotic voice was often enough to compel Rose to pay attention, even if she had no idea what An-Mei was talking about. Here, for example, half of the words in the passage aren't written in English, and yet Rose seems to understand the meaning of the words, based solely on the tone of her mother's voice.

What the passage dramatizes, then, is a deep, emotional connection between mother and daughter, one that defies language altogether. While some of the other characters in the novel struggle with the language gap between themselves and their parents, Rose seems to be able to communicate with her mother without language getting in the way. Even so, Tan suggests that there's a dark side to the kind of communication she shows between An-Mei and Rose: An-Mei seems to doubt that anybody other than she can help Rose (like a psychiatrist), suggesting that her love for Rose is smothering and invasive.

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An-mei Hsu Character Timeline in The Joy Luck Club

The timeline below shows where the character An-mei Hsu appears in The Joy Luck Club. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 1: The Joy Luck Club
Storytelling and Tradition Theme Icon
Fate and Autonomy Theme Icon
...game nights in America in 1949 with new participants, after immigrating to California and meeting An-mei Hsu, Lindo Jong, and Ying-ying St. Clair at the San Francisco Refugee Welcome Center. In... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Back in the present day, June arrives at An-mei’s house for the Joy Luck Club meeting. She immediately feels out of place, like she... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
...searching; however, she died before having the chance to contact them. The three women – An-mei, Lindo, and Ying-ying – ask June to fulfill her mother’s greatest wish of reconnecting with... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Storytelling and Tradition Theme Icon
...Suyuan after a lifetime of being raised by her. June recognizes that behind the anger, An-mei, Lindo, and Ying-ying are actually afraid that their own daughters would have the same reaction... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 2: Scar
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
In “Scar,” An-mei recalls her childhood in China, when she lived with her grandmother rather than her mother.... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Storytelling and Tradition Theme Icon
Popo becomes ill and bedridden in 1923, when An-mei is nine years old. Popo continues to scare her by telling bedside stories about disobedient... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Storytelling and Tradition Theme Icon
Sexism and Power Theme Icon
Later that summer, An-mei’s aunt loses her temper and reveals to An-mei that An-mei’s mother had run off with... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
...revelation, a pretty woman arrives at Popo’s house to nurse Popo back to health, and An-mei immediately knows it’s her mother even though she has no memory of her mother’s face.... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Sexism and Power Theme Icon
Later that afternoon, An-mei’s mother calls An-mei over to brush her hair, scolding her shyness by saying “An-mei, you... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
An-mei’s mother had begged An-mei to leave with her that night, but Popo refused to let... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Sacrifice Theme Icon
Right before Popo dies, An-mei discovers her mother cutting off a piece of her arm and cooking it in a... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 3: Half and Half
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Sacrifice Theme Icon
...coffee table leg in her parents’ living room, and remembers a time when her mother An-mei was very religious and treasured that bible. Though now An-mei pretends to care little for... (full context)
Sacrifice Theme Icon
Sexism and Power Theme Icon
...a divorce transitions to her greatest childhood trauma, which also served as the reason behind An-mei’s loss of religious faith. (full context)
Immigration, Language, and Mistranslation Theme Icon
...a leisurely white family at the beach. As the middle child, Rose was instructed by An-mei to watch her little brothers as they played on the beach; in particular, her four-year-old... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Sacrifice Theme Icon
...the precarious cliff side. Her attention is diverted when her other brothers start fighting, and An-mei calls to Rose to stop the two boys. Rose turns her gaze back to Bing... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Sacrifice Theme Icon
...family to blame her too, but each member has self-guilt for not being attentive. Only An-mei refuses to accept Bing’s fate, and takes Rose back to the ocean to look for... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Fate and Autonomy Theme Icon
Sacrifice Theme Icon
Back in the present-day, Rose tells An-mei about her divorce, and as predicted, An-mei tells her to try and save the marriage,... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 3: Without Wood
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Immigration, Language, and Mistranslation Theme Icon
Rose used to believe every superstition her mother An-mei mentioned, even when she didn’t quite know what it meant; the power of An-mei’s words... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Immigration, Language, and Mistranslation Theme Icon
In the present day, Rose and An-mei attend the funeral of a family friend, and Rose tells her mother more about her... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Sexism and Power Theme Icon
...if the check is a trick or an attempt to be compassionate. She remembers that An-mei told her she lacks the Chinese Zodiac element of wood, which causes Rose to listen... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Sexism and Power Theme Icon
...Rose stays in bed for three days, taking sleeping pills to numb her chaotic mind. An-mei starts calling Rose non-stop on the fourth day, rousing her from her depressed stupor. Rose... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Sexism and Power Theme Icon
...as soon as possible to a woman he’s been seeing during their separation. Rose realizes An-mei was right in suspecting extramarital “monkey business,” and gets the courage to not sign anything... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 1: Magpies
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Storytelling and Tradition Theme Icon
An-mei connects to her daughter Rose’s divorce narrative by concluding her own mother’s story. Though Rose... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
The next morning, An-mei wakes to her relatives screaming at An-mei’s mother, who’s kneeling pitifully in the dirt in... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Sexism and Power Theme Icon
After a long train ride, they arrive at the opulent Western-style mansion of Wu Tsing, An-mei’s mother’s new husband. He is a very wealthy merchant, who collects wives on a whim.... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Sexism and Power Theme Icon
An-mei’s first few weeks in the new mansion are the happiest times in her whole life,... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Sexism and Power Theme Icon
...houses with their children. Second Wife is clearly the dominant matriarch, and tries to win An-mei over with a beautiful strand of pearls. An-mei’s mother privately shatters the illusion by cracking... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Storytelling and Tradition Theme Icon
Sacrifice Theme Icon
Sexism and Power Theme Icon
An-mei learns more about Second Wife from a servant who’s loyal to An-mei’s mother. Second Wife... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Fate and Autonomy Theme Icon
Sacrifice Theme Icon
Sexism and Power Theme Icon
After learning the awful truth about Second Wife’s wickedness, An-mei starts noticing all of Second Wife’s attempts to hold power. The worst happens when Wu... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Fate and Autonomy Theme Icon
Sexism and Power Theme Icon
Two days before the Lunar New Year, An-mei’s mother commits suicide by overdosing on opium. Though some think it was supposed to be... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 3: Double Face
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Immigration, Language, and Mistranslation Theme Icon
...away. Lindo starts work at a fortune cookie factory in San Francisco, where she meets An-mei. Through An-mei’s church, Lindo meets Tin Jong, a nice man who unfortunately speaks Cantonese, not... (full context)