The Joy Luck Club

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Popo is An-mei’s maternal grandmother, who raises her from ages four to nine. She warns An-mei to never speak of An-mei’s mother, and tells her frightening bedtime stories that scare her into obedience. When An-mei turns nine, Popo becomes deathly ill and An-mei’s mother returns home to care for her, even going so far as to slice off some of her arm in an effort to make a healing brew. Unfortunately, the attempts to nurse Popo back to health aren’t enough, and Popo dies without ever reconciling with An-mei’s mother.

Popo Quotes in The Joy Luck Club

The The Joy Luck Club quotes below are all either spoken by Popo or refer to Popo. 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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Popo Character Timeline in The Joy Luck Club

The timeline below shows where the character Popo 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
...recalls her childhood in China, when she lived with her grandmother rather than her mother. Popo, Chinese for ‘grandma,’ would regularly frighten her by saying An-mei’s mother was a ghost; in... (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... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Storytelling and Tradition Theme Icon
Sexism and Power Theme Icon
...shameful that the family exiled her, calling her a traitor to their ancestors. An-mei realizes Popo’s stories were meant as warnings against her mother’s bad behavior, and disappointedly imagines her mother... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Soon after that 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... (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 go, arguing that An-mei’s mother was a disgrace, and that the... (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... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 1: Magpies
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Storytelling and Tradition Theme Icon
...choice by not speaking up. This reminds her of when her mother leaves again, following Popo’s death in “Scar.” An-mei cries at the impending abandonment, but An-mei’s mother tells her a... (full context)