The Joy Luck Club

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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, Prologue Quotes

In America I will have a daughter just like me. But over there nobody will say her worth is measured by the loudness of her husband’s belch. Over there nobody will look down on her, because I will make her speak only perfect American English.

Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:

In the prologue to part one of the novel, Tan sets up one of the book's key themes: the importance of family. The unnamed woman in the parable told here could stand for any one of the novel's main characters: she wants to move to the United States in the hopes of building a new life for her child. Furthermore, the woman's decision to travel to America reflects her exasperation with Chinese culture: she doesn't like that in China, women are measured by their husbands, not their own personalities. The woman in the story wants the best for her child, even if achieving "the best" involves schooling the child harshly and giving up parts of her own culture--forcing her to speak only American English, for example. The women in the novel, as we'll see, sometimes treat their children severely, but only because they want their children to be successful and happy as they can never be.


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“This feather may look worthless, but it comes from afar and carries with it all my good intentions." And she waited, year after year, for the day she could tell her daughter this in perfect American English.

Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:

When the unnamed woman comes to America, her prized swan is confiscated by the Americans who let her into the country: a metaphor for the way that immigration procedures and American society neuters immigrants of their native culture and forces them to "assimilate." The woman wanted to come to America to build a better life for her child, but she didn't count on having to surrender her dreams and ambitions as well. Here, the woman hangs onto a single feather from the swan, which she plans to present to her child one day, when she can express her feelings in American English. The woman's dilemma is that she wants the best for her child, and yet fails to communicate her message, due to cultural barriers. The woman makes a difficult decision: she raises her child to be an Asian-American, and yet the woman herself is still very much Asian, meaning that she'll never be able to understand her child completely.

Part 1, Chapter 1 Quotes

I’m shaking, trying to hold something inside. The last time I saw them, at the funeral, I had broken down and cried big gulping sobs. They must wonder how someone like me can take my mother’s place. A friend once told me that my mother and I were alike, that we had the same wispy hand gestures, the same girlish laugh and sideways look. When I shyly told my mother this, she seemed insulted and said, "You don’t even know little percent of me! How can you be me?" And she’s right. How can I be my mother at Joy Luck?

Related Characters: Jing-mei “June” Woo (speaker), Suyuan Woo
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, we're introduced to one of the novel's key characters, June. June is the daughter of Suyuan, a woman who, along with some of her Chinese friends, participated in a weekly gathering called the Joy Luck club. Suyuan has died recently, and June has been asked to attend the Joy Luck Club in her mother's place. June is understandably upset, although, right now she seems more upset about having to take her mother's place--both at the Joy Luck Club and, in some ways, in life--than she is about the fact of her mother's passing.

As June prepares to join the Joy Luck Club, it occurs to her that she barely knows anything about her mother. Her mother immigrated to the United States long ago, and June knows nothing about her mother's former life in China--thus making it impossible to ever "replace" her. As a member of the Joy Luck Club, however, she'll learn about her mother from old friends.

Not know your own mother? How can you say? Your mother is in your bones!

Related Characters: An-mei Hsu (speaker), Jing-mei “June” Woo, Suyuan Woo
Page Number: 40
Explanation and Analysis:

At the end of this chapter, June's mother's friends, the members of the Joy Luck Club, are outraged that June claims to know so little about her own mother--June is an American citizen, and her knowledge of her mother is limited to their experiences in America. June knows little to nothing about her mother's life back in China, and she shows little interest in learning about it.

The function of the Joy Luck Club, we begin to see, isn't just to play games--it's also to preserve the memories of the past; i.e., of life in China. In such a way, Tan lays out the basic structure of the novel: June will learn about her mother from the other members of the Joy Luck club, and gain new respect for her mother and her mother's culture.

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.

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.

I had no choice, now or later. That was how backward families in the country were. We were always the last to give up stupid old-fashioned customs. In other cities already, a man could choose his own wife, with his parents’ permission of course. But we were cut off from this new type of thought. You never heard if ideas were better in another city, only if they were worse.

Related Characters: Lindo Jong (speaker)
Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:

In this story, Lindo tells us about her betrothal. It may be surprising for some readers to hear that Lindo was betrothed to another man, Tyan-Yu, when she was only two years old. In her part of China at the time, Lindo explains, betrothals and marriages were usually determined by Zodiac signs, rather than love between two adults. Lindo acknowledges that there were many more forward-thinking communities in China where adults could choose their partners (but only men, never women). However, in Lindo's community, the old-fashioned Zodiac method was still popular.

Lindo's comments are important because they clarify the fact that Chinese culture isn't one monolithic object: China encompasses an incredible variety of traditions and cultures, and it's wrong to lump them all together, as so many Americans do.

Part 1, Chapter 4 Quotes

All these years I kept my true nature hidden, running along like a small shadow so nobody could catch me. And because I moved so secretly now my daughter does not see me. She sees a list of things to buy, her checkbook out of balance, her ashtray sitting crooked on a straight table. And I want to tell her this: we are lost, she and I, unseen and not seeing, unheard and not hearing, unknown by others

Related Characters: Ying-ying St. Clair (speaker), Lena St. Clair
Page Number: 67
Explanation and Analysis:

In this strange story, we learn that Ying-ying has acted meek, quiet, and lost for most of her life. Furthermore, for many years, Ying-ying didn't even remember why she felt so lost. As a result, Ying-ying never really connected with her daughter, Lena. Instead of feeling a deep connection with her mother, Lena acted aloof and distant, and focused on material things like shopping lists instead of her almost-invisible mother.

The passage conveys the tragedy of broken down communication: Ying-ying loves her daughter, and yet she can't fully express her feelings, for reasons she can barely recall. The divide between Ying-ying and Lena is cultural as well as psychological: it's her past experiences in China, experiences that Lena knows nothing about, that have kept Ying-ying feeling so lost and secretive.

“What is a secret wish?”
“It is what you want but cannot ask,” said Amah.
"Why can’t I ask?"
"This is because…because if you ask it…it is no longer a wish but a selfish desire," said Amah. "Haven’t I taught you – that it is wrong to think of your own needs? A girl can never ask, only listen."

Related Characters: Ying-ying St. Clair (speaker), Amah (speaker)
Page Number: 70
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Ying-ying remembers an episode from her childhood in which her nurse, Amah, told her not to openly ask for anything in life. Ying-ying was a young, impressionable child, and Amah told her that she shouldn't "disgrace" herself by voicing her own desires. Instead, Amah explained, Ying-ying should limit herself to secret wishes; i.e., wishes that she never actually expressed.

The passage shows the way that Chinese culture sometimes encourages people, especially women, to be meek and submissive instead of expressing their true feelings. Authority figures like Amah mean well, and yet they perpetuate sexism by ordering children to swallow their desires--a surefire recipe for unhappiness later on in life.

Part 2, Prologue Quotes

"I don’t believe you. Let me see the book."
"It is written in Chinese. You cannot understand it. That is why you must listen to me."

Page Number: 87
Explanation and Analysis:

In the second prologue of the book, a mother tells her daughter not to bike away into the distance, because doing so is forbidden according to a supposed book, written in Chinese. The daughter, suspicious that the book's warning is made-up (which it probably is), asks to see it for herself, but the mother insists that the daughter won't be able to understand it, since it's written in Chinese.

The passage is amusing, but it also conveys a serious point: the mother in the parable is using her Chinese heritage to both educate her daughter and tyrannize her. She orders the daughter what to do, and rather than explain her reasons for doing so, she cites a book that the daughter won't be able to understand. The barrier between Chinese and English language symbolizes the wider barrier between the two generations: the mother raises her daughter according to a set of rules that the daughter finds absurd, and yet the mother seems to lack the ability to justify her own ways to her child. As a result, resentment and cultural misunderstandings build up between the daughter and the mother.

“You can’t tell me because you don’t know! You don’t know anything!” And the girl ran outside, jumped on her bicycle, and in her hurry to get away, she fell before she even reached the corner.

Page Number: 87
Explanation and Analysis:

In the second part of the parable in Part Two, the impudent daughter of the mother disobeys and bikes away on her own. In the end, however, she falls off her bike and hurts herself. The mother seems to be vindicated: she's ordered her daughter not to bike away on her own, and when the daughter does so, she gets hurt.

The passage could be interpreted as a fable, the moral of which is to obey your elders. But perhaps Tan's point is subtler: the mother, while technically "right," is also a tragic figure--she seems to be motivated by a sincere desire to help her child, and yet she can't quite connect with her. The barriers between English and Chinese languages, and between American and Chinese culture, conspire to keep the daughter and her mother apart both physically and emotionally.

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 2, Chapter 4 Quotes

I saw what seemed to be the prodigy side of me – because I had never seen that face before. I looked at my reflection, blinking so I could see more clearly. The girl staring back at me was angry, powerful. This girl and I were the same. I had new thoughts, willful thoughts, or rather thoughts filled with lots of won’ts. I won’t let her change me, I promised to myself. I won’t be what I’m not.

Related Characters: Jing-mei “June” Woo (speaker), Suyuan Woo
Page Number: 134
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, we see the tragedy emerging between June and her mother, Suyuan. Suyuan desperately wants her daughter June to be a child prodigy of some kind--and so she works hard to find something that June is good at. Suyuan seems motivated by a more abstract sense of socially-approved success than she is by love for her child as an individual. As a result, June finds herself growing alienated from her mother: she begins to hate herself, and hate her mother for forcing her to try to many different activities.

The passage is tragic because it shows a divide growing between mother and daughter, even when both have good intentions. June thinks of her mother as manipulating her for selfish reasons. This assessment is probably a little harsh, but it's also totally justifiable and admirable for June to want to assert her individuality and grow into her own person. At the same time, even if Suyuan pushes her daughter too hard to succeed, she wants the best for her child, and undertakes great sacrifices on her own part to give June access to resources she herself never had.

Maybe I never really gave myself a fair chance. I did pick up the basics pretty quickly, and I might have become a good pianist at that young age. But I was so determined not to try, not to be anybody different that I learned to play only the most ear-splitting preludes, the most discordant hymns.

Related Characters: Jing-mei “June” Woo (speaker)
Page Number: 137
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Suyuan thinks she's found something that June can succeed at: piano playing. Suyuan arranges for June to receive piano lessons, working extra hard and spending a lot of her own money to do so. June, who by this point dislikes her mother for forcing her to try so many different activities, rebels by deliberately playing the piano badly. In retrospect, June comes to realize that she could have been a successful piano player, but because she wanted to rebels against her mother, she devoted her energy to playing poorly.

The passage shows the limitations of Suyuan's approach to child-rearing. Suyuan wants her child to succeed, but because she's too forceful and aggressive in her motivation techniques, June works to not succeed. The tragedy is that at the same time that June is asserting herself, she is also ignoring her mother's sacrifice of work and money, and squandering the resources Suyuan has made available to her.

“You want me to be someone that I’m not!” I sobbed. “I’ll never be the kind of daughter you want me to be… I wish I wasn’t your daughter. I wish you weren’t my mother,” I shouted. As I said these things I got scared. It felt… as if this awful side of me had surfaced at last... And that’s when I remembered the babies she had lost in China, the ones we never talked about.
“I wish I’d never been born!” I shouted. “I wish I were dead! Like them.”
It was as if I had said the magic words Alakazam!—and her face went blank.

Related Characters: Jing-mei “June” Woo (speaker), Suyuan Woo
Page Number: 142
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, June rebels against her mother and takes things too far. Suyuan wants her daughter to succeed at playing the piano--an activity that June doesn't particularly enjoy. June resents her mother for pushing her so hard to succeed, and as a result, she lashes out. In this scene, June yells at her mother that she hates playing the piano, and hates her mother, too. Furthermore, she claims that she wishes she'd never been born--she wishes she'd died, like the two daughters Suyuan has "lost" in China.

Suyuan is so hurt by June's outburst that she backs off and never mentions the piano again. In all, the passage shows that the conflict between Suyuan and June is a two-way street, even if Suyuan "started it." After this, June feels guilty for pushing her mother away. For her part, Suyuan, Tan suggests, isn't just a stereotypical overbearing parent--she too has feelings of guilt and great loss, related to her two other daughters.

Part 3, Chapter 1 Quotes

To this day, I believe my mother has the mysterious ability to see things before they happen. She has a Chinese saying for what she knows. Chunwang chihan: if the lips are gone, the teeth will be cold. Which means, I suppose, one thing is always the result of another.

Related Characters: Lena St. Clair (speaker), Ying-ying St. Clair
Page Number: 149
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Lena discusses her mother's apparent ability to predict the future. Over the years, Lena has noticed that her mother can predict when something bad is going to happen to a family member. Notice that the events Ying-ying can predict are almost always bad--a fact reflected in the wording of the proverb she quotes here. If the "lips are gone," we're told, "the teeth will be cold"; suggesting, perhaps, that tragedies are always tied to one another.

The notion that one tragedy breeds another is important to the plot of the book. Many of the events in the novel are cyclical: characters who were wronged later cause similar wrongs for other people, whether they're trying to do so or not. Thus, the passage could be interpreted as an observation not just about tragedies predicted by Ying-ying, but about the interconnectedness of all tragedy and suffering.

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. 

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.

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.

Part 4, Chapter 4 Quotes

The minute our train leaves the Hong Kong border and enters Shenzhen, China, I feel different. I can feel the skin on my forehead tingling, my blood rushing through a new course, my bones aching with a familiar old pain. And I think, My mother was right. I am becoming Chinese.

Related Characters: Jing-mei “June” Woo (speaker), Suyuan Woo
Page Number: 267
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, June is coming back to her mother's home in China. June was always opposed to returning to China--she thought of herself as an American, without any particular connection to Chinese culture, in spite of her heritage. But after Suyuan's death, June decides to return to China to learn about her mother's life and find out about her long-lost daughters.

The passage depicts an almost supernatural connection, not just between mother and daughter but between person and country. As June passes into China, she feels herself becoming Chinese. In spite of her American citizenship, June intuitively senses that she knows China--something in the environment triggers her. Here, as in other parts of the book, Tan conveys the extent of the relationship between a person and her background--try as she might, June can't escape her Chinese heritage.

"You don’t understand," I protested.
"What I don’t understand?" she said.
And then I whispered, "They’ll think I’m responsible, that she died because I didn’t appreciate her."
And Auntie Lindo looked satisfied and sad at the same time, as if this were true and I had finally realized it.

Related Characters: Jing-mei “June” Woo (speaker), Lindo Jong (speaker), Suyuan Woo
Page Number: 271
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, June talks to her mother's friend, Lindo. June is preparing to reunite with her long-lost sisters--the girls whom Suyuan left back in China when she came to America. June feels guilty about her mother's death, and the thought of having to appear before her long-lost sisters makes her feel even guiltier; she imagines that her sisters will blame her for her mother's death. June voices her anxieties to Lindo, and Lindo seems to look satisfied, as if June is only just realizing the truth.

Has June "killed" her mother through neglect? It would be wrong to say so, and Tan leaves open the possibility that Lindo doesn't truly agree with June's suggestion--perhaps June is only projecting her own guilt onto Lindo's face (and Lindo also looks "sad" here, whether because she thinks this suggestion is false or because she thinks it's tragically true). It really is the case, however, that June has turned her back on Suyuan, being unnecessarily harsh with her mother; as a result, Suyuan's life has been sad and lonely. June feels guilty about seeing her sisters because they never had the opportunity to even meet their mother, much less be frustrated by and unappreciative of her.

I look at their faces again and see no trace of my mother in them. Yet they still look familiar. And now I also see what part of me is Chinese. It is so obvious. It is my family. It is in our blood. After all these years, I can finally be let go.

Related Characters: Jing-mei “June” Woo (speaker), Suyuan Woo, Wang Chwun Yu, Wang Chwun Hwa
Page Number: 288
Explanation and Analysis:

At the end of the novel, June finally reunites with her long-lost siblings. As she does so, she feels that she's also accomplished a task she's been attempting for many years. June has been interested in tracking down her siblings, and yet she's always felt a sense of incompleteness, both because of her strained relationship with her mother and because of her ignorance of and disconnection from her own culture. By traveling to China and finding her half-sisters, June honors her mother's memory, both respecting her mother's heritage and completing the task that Suyuan herself was never able to do.

The passage is both the culmination of the entire book and the beginning of the rest of June's life. June has always felt that her Chinese heritage is a millstone around her neck--she wishes she could break free of it. Here, in the instant that June is finally most in touch with her Chinese "roots," she can finally move on with her life. And yet at the same time, she seems to have no desire to abandon her Chinese heritage anymore: she's just getting to know her sisters. In all, the passage sums up one of the key themes of the novel: heritage, like a mother or daughter, can be freeing and imprisoning, often at the same time.

No matches.