The Joy Luck Club

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Clifford St. Clair Character Analysis

Ying-ying’s husband and Lena’s father. He is an American of English and Irish descent, who meets Ying-ying in China while completing military service. He barely speaks Chinese, which creates a large emotional barrier between them throughout their marriage. Clifford dies of a heart attack a few years before the beginning of The Joy Luck Club.
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Clifford St. Clair Character Timeline in The Joy Luck Club

The timeline below shows where the character Clifford St. Clair appears in The Joy Luck Club. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 2, Chapter 2: The Voice from the Wall
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Immigration, Language, and Mistranslation Theme Icon
Sexism and Power Theme Icon
Lena comes from a biracial family: her father Clifford is American of English/Irish descent, and her mother Ying-ying is Chinese. Her parents met while... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Immigration, Language, and Mistranslation Theme Icon
Sexism and Power Theme Icon
Clifford receives a promotion that affords them a bigger place, and he claims Ying-ying “is thrilled.”... (full context)
Immigration, Language, and Mistranslation Theme Icon
Soon after the promotion, Clifford tells Lena that they’re expecting another baby. Though her father is overjoyed at the news,... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Immigration, Language, and Mistranslation Theme Icon
Sexism and Power Theme Icon
...Lena in Chinese that the baby’s death was due to bad decisions in Ying-ying’s past. Clifford, unable to understand, asks Lena to translate her mother’s rapid Chinese. Lena decides to purposely... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Immigration, Language, and Mistranslation Theme Icon
...without her baby. She wanders around like a ghost, and retreats from social life, worrying Clifford and Lena. Lena tries to convince herself that her life is at least happier than... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 1: Rice Husband
Fate and Autonomy Theme Icon
...family, not any way to stop them from happening. For example, Ying-ying predicted her husband Clifford’s fatal heart attack based on a dying house plant’s inability to get water up its... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 2: Waiting Between the Trees
Fate and Autonomy Theme Icon
...moves to the city and works in a clothing shop, where she meets an American, Clifford St. Clair. Clifford, taken by Ying-ying’s beauty, tries to woo her with cheap gifts, and... (full context)
Fate and Autonomy Theme Icon
Sexism and Power Theme Icon
Lena thinks that her father saved her mother from China, but Ying-ying actually made Clifford wait for four years “like a dog in front of a butcher shop.” One day,... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Sacrifice Theme Icon
Sexism and Power Theme Icon
...raising her daughter, also born in a Tiger year, without any spirit. But now, with Clifford deceased and Lena on the brink of divorce, Ying-ying is finally ready to embrace her... (full context)