The Joy Luck Club

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Rose Hsu Jordan Character Analysis

Rose is the narrator of “Half and Half” and “Without Wood.” She has two sisters and three living brothers; her youngest brother Bing drowned when he was four years old while fourteen-year-old Rose was supposed to be watching him. As an adult, Rose is in the midst of a divorce from her husband, Ted Jordan. Their marriage was initially based on his attraction to her passivity, but he later became irritated by her constant indecision and deferral of opinion. Rose eventually learns how powerful her voice can be, following wise anecdotes from her mother, An-mei.

Rose Hsu Jordan Quotes in The Joy Luck Club

The The Joy Luck Club quotes below are all either spoken by Rose Hsu Jordan or refer to Rose Hsu Jordan. 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 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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Over the years, I learned to choose from the best opinions. Chinese people had Chinese opinions. American people had American opinions. And in almost every case, the American version was much better. It was only later that I discovered there was a serious flaw with the American version. There were too many choices, so it was easy to get confused and pick the wrong thing.

Related Characters: Rose Hsu Jordan (speaker)
Page Number: 191
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Rose spells out one of the limitations of life in American culture, versus life in a Chinese culture. Americans have a huge array of options available to them: they can choose any school, any career, any spouse, etc. In China, one's options in life are determined by birth, family, money, etc. While one could potentially conclude that American culture is "better" than Chinese culture insofar as it offers more options for happiness, it's also true that American life has its downsides.  It can be dizzying to have to choose between so many different options, with the result that sometimes, Americans become obsessed with the choices they didn't make, rather than enjoying their current lives.

The passage is one of the most eloquent expressions of the strength of Chinese culture--a culture that limits personal freedom, especially for women, and yet offers a kind of solidarity and comfort that American society cannot match.

Ted pulled out the divorce papers and stared at them. His x’s were still there, the blanks were still blank. "What do you think you’re doing? Exactly what?" he said.
And the answer, the one that was important above everything else, ran through my body and fell from my lips: "You can’t just pull me out of your life and throw me away."

Related Characters: Rose Hsu Jordan (speaker), Ted Jordan (speaker)
Page Number: 196
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Rose stands up to her husband, Ted, and refuses to just comply with his wishes and sign the divorce papers, allowing him to immediately marry someone else. Ted is surprised to see Rose standing up for herself--she's been a relatively calm, meek wife, and Ted has taken advantage of her meekness by cheating on her with other women. Here, though, Rose seems to find inspiration in her mother's example. Just as An-Mei's voice inspired Rose when Rose was a child, Rose fills her own voice with confidence and assuredness, with the result that she at least gets acknowledgment and respect from Ted.

The passage gives us another good example of the positive relationships between mothers and their daughters. Based on the first half of the novel, it would be easy to conclude that Chinese mothers pass on nothing but submissiveness and suffering to their children, but as the novel approaches an ending it becomes clear that the characters have also learned inner strength and confidence from their parents.

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Rose Hsu Jordan Character Timeline in The Joy Luck Club

The timeline below shows where the character Rose Hsu Jordan appears in The Joy Luck Club. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 2, Chapter 3: Half and Half
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Sacrifice Theme Icon
Rose notices a white leather bible propping up a coffee table leg in her parents’ living... (full context)
Sexism and Power Theme Icon
When she first started dating her now estranged husband, Ted, Rose didn’t think the relationship would become serious. But after spending time with his parents, who... (full context)
Sexism and Power Theme Icon
...later he loses a large malpractice suit and becomes uncertain in his abilities. He pushes Rose to take responsibility in the relationship and own up to the consequences of decision-making. However,... (full context)
Sacrifice Theme Icon
Sexism and Power Theme Icon
Ted grows increasingly angry with Rose, blaming her for not caring about the outcome of their marriage. She is shocked when... (full context)
Immigration, Language, and Mistranslation Theme Icon
When she is fourteen, Rose goes with her mother, father, two older sisters, and three younger brothers to the Pacific... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Sacrifice Theme Icon
Late in the afternoon, Bing asks Rose if he can go out to the reef line and see where their father is... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Sacrifice Theme Icon
Rose blames herself for her negligence and expects her whole family to blame her too, but... (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... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 1: Rice Husband
Immigration, Language, and Mistranslation Theme Icon
Sacrifice Theme Icon
Sexism and Power Theme Icon
Lena believes that she’s not good enough for Harold, who seems like the perfect man. Rose, however, tells her that such thoughts are commonplace among Chinese-American women, who are raised with... (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... (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... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Sexism and Power Theme Icon
Over the next few weeks, Rose inventories her whole house, dividing furniture and remembering the history of everything she and Ted... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Sexism and Power Theme Icon
Unable to make a decision, Rose stays in bed for three days, taking sleeping pills to numb her chaotic mind. An-mei... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Sexism and Power Theme Icon
Rose hangs up, and when the phone rings later, it’s Ted. He demands that she sign... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Immigration, Language, and Mistranslation Theme Icon
Sexism and Power Theme Icon
Ted comes over after work, expecting the divorce papers to be signed. However, Rose has finally made up her mind, and refuses to bend to Ted’s will without a... (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 feels like she’s out of... (full context)