The Joy Luck Club

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An-mei’s mother Character Analysis

An-mei’s mother is forced to leave the family home by her own mother, Popo, after her first husband dies and she (shamefully in the eyes of the community) becomes the unimportant fourth wife to a rich merchant named Wu Tsing. As the young widow of An-mei’s father, An-mei’s mother was expected to honor his life forever by never remarrying. An-mei doesn’t learn the full story of An-mei’s mother’s tragic life until she goes to live with her mother following Popo’s death. At Wu Tsing’s mansion, An-mei’s mother must submit to his second wife, who dominates the household with her manipulative personality. Second Wife even takes An-mei’s baby brother as her own to be the official mother of Wu Tsing’s heir. An-mei learns that her mother was raped by Wu Tsing, and her mother had no choice then but to marry him rather than live with the dishonor. An-mei’s mother finally takes power by killing herself on the most spiritually superstitious day of the year, forcing Wu Tsing to honor An-mei so as to not enrage An-mei’s mother’s unsettled spirit.

An-mei’s mother Quotes in The Joy Luck Club

The The Joy Luck Club quotes below are all either spoken by An-mei’s mother or refer to An-mei’s mother. 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 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.

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An-mei’s mother Character Timeline in The Joy Luck Club

The timeline below shows where the character An-mei’s mother appears in The Joy Luck Club. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 2: Scar
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
...grandmother rather than her mother. Popo, Chinese for ‘grandma,’ would regularly frighten her by saying An-mei’s mother was a ghost; in those days, a ghost meant anything they “were forbidden to talk... (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 a man named Wu Tsing to be his lowly fourth wife,... (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 know... (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 her... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Sacrifice Theme Icon
...soup made with “magic in the ancient tradition”—a soup which is supposed to heal anything. An-mei’s mother then attempts in vain to feed the broth to Popo, desperate to cure her. From... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 1: Magpies
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Storytelling and Tradition Theme Icon
...mother leaves again, following Popo’s death in “Scar.” An-mei cries at the impending abandonment, but An-mei’s mother tells her a story about a turtle who visited An-mei’s mother as a girl and... (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 front of the house. They refuse to... (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
...more than “decoration.” An-mei sees how shameful her mother’s position is, as Wu Tsing uses An-mei’s mother ’s body for pleasure, then discards her for his girlish new conquest. 000001 (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Sexism and Power Theme Icon
...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 a pearl in front of An-mei, revealing that the... (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 gained power in the household by faking suicides over the years, scaring... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Fate and Autonomy Theme Icon
Sacrifice Theme Icon
Sexism and Power Theme Icon
...all of Second Wife’s attempts to hold power. The worst happens when Wu Tsing promises An-mei’s mother her own house for bearing him a son. Second Wife, filled with jealousy, fakes another... (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 faked... (full context)