The Joy Luck Club

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Waverly is the narrator of “Rules of the Game” and “Four Directions.” Her stories center on her experiences as a child chess prodigy, and the tension between her and her mother, Lindo, who often assumes credit for Waverly’s successes. Waverly treats her mother as the ultimate opponent, rather than a guiding figure, which antagonizes their relationship up into Waverly’s adulthood. While seeking Lindo’s approval before her second marriage, it is revealed that Waverly believes that Lindo poisoned her confidence as a child, so that Waverly is unable to trust her own instincts over love, parenting, and life in general. She has a young daughter, Shoshana, from a previous marriage.

Waverly Jong Quotes in The Joy Luck Club

The The Joy Luck Club quotes below are all either spoken by Waverly Jong or refer to Waverly Jong. 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 3 Quotes

I once sacrificed my life to keep my parents’ promise. This means nothing to you, because to you promises mean nothing. A daughter can promise to come to dinner, but if she has a headache, if she has a traffic jam, if she wants to watch a favorite movie on TV, she no longer has a promise.

Related Characters: Lindo Jong (speaker), Waverly Jong
Page Number: 49
Explanation and Analysis:

The passage begins on an aggressive note: the parent, Lindo Jong, speaks about her child, Waverley Jong. Lindo thinks of herself as being a faithful, respectful daughter--i.e., one who honors her promises to her parents at all costs. Lindo's own daughter, by contrast, is flighty and unpredictable--sometimes she keeps her promises, and sometimes she doesn't. According to Lindo, anything is wrong with Waverley (a headache, for example), Waverly breaks her word.

Lindo's tone is clearly frustrated: she weighs her daughter's loyalty to her against her own loyalty to her own parents, and concludes that Waverly is somehow an inferior daughter. Lindo's speech shows the strengths, but also the limits, of the mother-daughter relationship. Daughters show incredible loyalty to their parents, and vice-versa, but sometimes, such loyalty can fade away, or be placed behind other priorities--and perhaps it's irrational for a parent to demand total loyalty of her daughter.

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Part 2, Chapter 1 Quotes

I was six when my mother taught me the art of invisible strength. It was a strategy for winning arguments, respect from others, and eventually, though neither of us knew it at the time, chess games.

Related Characters: Waverly Jong (speaker), Lindo Jong
Page Number: 89
Explanation and Analysis:

The chapter begins on a relatively optimistic note: Waverly, a young girl, learns from her mother, Lindo, how to be strong and determined at all times. Lindo recognizes that Waverly is a loud child, and she tries to teach her daughter how to be quiet. And yet Lindo isn't teaching Waverly to be meek or submissive: rather, Lindo teaches Waverly how to take care of herself and project inner confidence, without ever saying a word. Waverly's "invisible strength" later helps her succeed in the game of chess.

The passage is a good example of how a mother can pass on lessons to her child without limiting the child's freedom or angering the child. Lindo doesn't want her daughter to be passive or weak; she teaches Waverly strength. In general, then, the passage shows--at least for now--a supportive relationship between mother and daughter. 

Part 3, Chapter 2 Quotes

That’s what she is. A Horse, born in 1918, destined to be obstinate and frank to the point of tactlessness. She and I make a bad combination, because I’m a Rabbit, born in 1951, supposedly sensitive, with tendencies toward being thin-skinned and skittery at the first sign of criticism.

Related Characters: Waverly Jong (speaker), Lindo Jong
Page Number: 167
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Waverly complains that she and her mother are destined to never get along, thanks to their incompatible Zodiac signs. Waverly is thin-skinned, while Lindo is frank and tactless--together, they just make each other miserable. Waverly makes no real effort to get along with her mother anymore--instead, she throws up her hands and says that they'll never get along.

The passage is interesting because although it shows the conflict between Waverly and her mother, it also shows the deep connection between them, rooted in their common knowledge of Chinese culture. Even two people whose Zodiac signs are incompatible have one thing in common: they both believe in the same Zodiac. Subtly, then, the passage communicates the unshakable bond between Waverly and Lindo, a bond that's tied to their Chinese heritage. (Yet this particular part of their heritage--the idea that the Zodiac predicts one's personal qualities--also keeps them apart, as they feel they are "fated" to never get along.)

And my mother loved to show me off, like one of the many trophies she polished. She used to discuss my games as if she had devised the strategies… and a hundred other useless things that had nothing to do with my winning.

Related Characters: Waverly Jong (speaker), Lindo Jong
Page Number: 170
Explanation and Analysis:

Waverly becomes deeply resentful of her mother's pride in her chess victories. Although Waverly is happy with her victories, she's worried that her mother isn't really concerned with Waverly's happiness or success; Lindo is more concerned about taking the credit for her daughter's games. Waverly begins to think of herself as a mere object for her mother's gratification: a "trophy" to be shown off to Lindo's friends and associates.

The passage shows the extent of the rift between Waverly and Lindo. Waverly is a talented person, but her interest in her chess games is second to her obsession with her own mother. Waverly can't stop thinking about Lindo--she's fixated on Lindo to the point where she can't concentrate on strategy anymore. Thus, the passage could be considered an example of a mother-daughter relationship that's self-destructive, rather than mutually beneficial. 

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Waverly Jong Character Timeline in The Joy Luck Club

The timeline below shows where the character Waverly Jong appears in The Joy Luck Club. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 3: The Red Candle
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Sacrifice Theme Icon
...saying she “sacrificed [her] life to keep [her] parents’ promise,” but that to her daughter Waverly, “promises mean nothing.” She then thinks about her granddaughter Shoshana, to whom she occasionally gives... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 1: Rules of the Game
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Waverly Jong narrates her experience as a child chess prodigy, saying that her mother Lindo was... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Immigration, Language, and Mistranslation Theme Icon
One Christmas, Waverly’s older brother receives a used chess set with missing pieces as a holiday gift from... (full context)
Storytelling and Tradition Theme Icon
Waverly goes to the library to research chess strategies and game theory in her free time,... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Immigration, Language, and Mistranslation Theme Icon
Sexism and Power Theme Icon
Lindo notices Waverly’s talent and signs her up for neighborhood chess tournaments. At the first tournament, Lindo gives... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Immigration, Language, and Mistranslation Theme Icon
After becoming a national champion, Waverly takes advantage of her mother’s vanity in her by getting out of chores and getting... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Immigration, Language, and Mistranslation Theme Icon
On one trip, Waverly loses her temper and tells Lindo that the bragging is embarrassing. Lindo angrily asks if... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Waverly runs off, ignoring her mother calling her back, and hides in an alley. Hours later,... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 4: Two Kinds
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Immigration, Language, and Mistranslation Theme Icon
...June is amazing at, but they always end up deeply disappointed. At the same time, Waverly becomes a chess prodigy, and Lindo brags about her daughter’s victories. June can see Suyuan’s... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Fate and Autonomy Theme Icon
...June is stunned by her failure, but Suyuan is completely humiliated after bragging so much. Waverly tells June that not everyone can be a prodigy, and the gravity of June’s self-imposed... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 2: Four Directions
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Fate and Autonomy Theme Icon
Waverly takes Lindo out to lunch to tell her about her recent engagement to Rich Schields,... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Immigration, Language, and Mistranslation Theme Icon
Whenever Waverly tries to bring Rich up, Lindo changes the subject, so Waverly decides to bring her... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Sacrifice Theme Icon
Waverly angrily recalls her childhood again, after her fight with Lindo in “Rules of the Game.”... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Waverly goes back to playing competitively a few weeks later, but has lost her confidence and... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Waverly finally gets Lindo to acknowledge Rich through a sneaky plan: she first takes him to... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Immigration, Language, and Mistranslation Theme Icon
...number of Chinese etiquette rules, such as adding soy sauce to Lindo’s cooking and calling Waverly’s parents by their first names. Waverly is horrified by his behavior and has second thoughts... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Immigration, Language, and Mistranslation Theme Icon
Waverly stays up all night stewing, then drives straight to Lindo’s in the morning to yell... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 4: Best Quality
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Immigration, Language, and Mistranslation Theme Icon
Sacrifice Theme Icon
At Suyuan’s dinner party, Waverly ruins Suyuan’s head count by bringing her daughter Shoshana and giving her the biggest, best... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Sexism and Power Theme Icon
Midway through dinner, conversation strikes back up again. Waverly compliments June’s new haircut, but then acts horrified when she learns that June goes to... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Storytelling and Tradition Theme Icon
Angry at Waverly’s pettiness, June retorts that she’d have more money if Waverly’s advertising firm paid her for... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 3: Double Face
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Immigration, Language, and Mistranslation Theme Icon
Waverly worries that she will blend in too much on her trip to China, and airport... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Immigration, Language, and Mistranslation Theme Icon
Before Waverly’s wedding, Waverly forces Lindo to get her hair cut at a fancy San Francisco salon.... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Immigration, Language, and Mistranslation Theme Icon
When left alone, Lindo thinks about the similarities between she and Waverly, as mother and daughter; then, she thinks about her own mother and her. Before they... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Immigration, Language, and Mistranslation Theme Icon
...language barrier, they learn to laugh together, and eventually marry and start a family. When Waverly is born, after two boys, Lindo is overwhelmed by how much they look alike, and... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Immigration, Language, and Mistranslation Theme Icon
Sacrifice Theme Icon
Sexism and Power Theme Icon
Back in the parlor, Lindo complains about Waverly’s crooked nose, inherited from Lindo, but Waverly likes it, saying it makes them look “devious…... (full context)