The Joy Luck Club

Jing-mei “June” Woo Character Analysis

June is the main narrator in The Joy Luck Club, as her vignettes specifically bridge the histories between mothers and daughters, and between childhood memories and present-day events. She also has the most stories in the novel – “The Joy Luck Club, “Two Kinds,” “Best Quality,” and “A Pair of Tickets” – since she represents both herself and her deceased mother, Suyuan. Suyuan tried to make June into a child prodigy, but June hated the pressure to succeed. Instead, she decided that being her “true self” meant having the right to be mediocre, which continues to color her adult life as she struggles with an unfulfilling career and social life. It isn’t until the end of the novel that June understands that Suyuan’s critique was actually her way of encouraging June to reach her full potential. June brings Suyuan’s story to her long-lost half-sisters, and gains an even more profound understanding of who her mother was.

Jing-mei “June” Woo Quotes in The Joy Luck Club

The The Joy Luck Club quotes below are all either spoken by Jing-mei “June” Woo or refer to Jing-mei “June” Woo. 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 numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin Books edition of The Joy Luck Club published in 2006.
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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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“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:

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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:

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"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:

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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:

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Jing-mei “June” Woo Character Timeline in The Joy Luck Club

The timeline below shows where the character Jing-mei “June” Woo appears in The Joy Luck Club. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 1: The Joy Luck Club
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Storytelling and Tradition Theme Icon
Two months after her mother Suyuan passes away, Jing-mei “June” Woo is asked by her father Canning to take over her mother’s spot in the... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Storytelling and Tradition Theme Icon
Immigration, Language, and Mistranslation Theme Icon
Sacrifice Theme Icon
Suyuan tells June the origin story of the Joy Luck Club in a lighter tone when June is... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Immigration, Language, and Mistranslation Theme Icon
Sacrifice Theme Icon
...Chungking, she only has three silk dresses left that she’s wearing on her body. When June asks about the babies’ fates, horrified, Suyuan only says that “your father is not my... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Back in the present day, June arrives at An-mei’s house for the Joy Luck Club meeting. She immediately feels out of... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
After the game, June tries to leave, but the three women stop her and reveal that Suyuan had finally... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Storytelling and Tradition Theme Icon
The three older women are outraged that June would think she didn’t know Suyuan after a lifetime of being raised by her. June... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 4: Two Kinds
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Immigration, Language, and Mistranslation Theme Icon
June remembers Suyuan telling her that a person could be anything in America if he or... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Immigration, Language, and Mistranslation Theme Icon
Suyuan and June try different avenues of talent to find something June is amazing at, but they always... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Fate and Autonomy Theme Icon
June gets sick of seeing Suyuan’s disappointment, and one night, looks at herself in the bathroom... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Immigration, Language, and Mistranslation Theme Icon
Sacrifice Theme Icon
...a little Chinese girl playing the piano on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and decides that June should excel at that. Having no spare money, Suyuan agrees to clean an old piano... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
June starts her piano lessons, but quickly learns that her old teacher is deaf and can... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Sacrifice Theme Icon
The pointless lessons continue, and June gets more apathetic as Suyuan becomes more boastful of June’s “talents,” despite never having heard... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Fate and Autonomy Theme Icon
...of the talent show, all of the Joy Luck Club members are in attendance, and June comes on stage, completely confident. The beginning of the song sounds so good to daydreaming... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Sacrifice Theme Icon
Two days later, Suyuan tells June to practice at her usual time in the afternoon; June assumed that the talent show... (full context)
Fate and Autonomy Theme Icon
In the following years, June believes that to be authentic to herself, she has the right to fall short of... (full context)
Fate and Autonomy Theme Icon
Soon after Suyuan’s passing, June gets the piano reconditioned for “purely sentimental reasons,” and discovers her old lesson books in... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 4: Best Quality
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
On the Lunar New Year holiday before she passes away, Suyuan gives June “her life’s importance,” a jade pendant on a gold chain. June is unsure why Suyuan... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Storytelling and Tradition Theme Icon
June then flashes back to that Lunar New Year day, when she went with Suyuan to... (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 a gay... (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 completed work.... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Immigration, Language, and Mistranslation Theme Icon
After everyone leaves, June asks Suyuan what was wrong with the broken crab, and Suyuan says that it had... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 4: A Pair of Tickets
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
In the final chapter of the novel, June flies to China with her father to meet her long-lost half-sisters. As soon as she... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Immigration, Language, and Mistranslation Theme Icon
June and Canning first go to Guangzhou, formerly Canton, to see Canning’s aunt. In the forty... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
June struggles with the thought that she’ll have to break the news of Suyuan’s passing to... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Immigration, Language, and Mistranslation Theme Icon
...Guangzhou, Canning reunites with his aunt for the first time in forty years. She introduces June to their extended Chinese family, even though June is unable to converse with them. They... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Immigration, Language, and Mistranslation Theme Icon
After dinner, June is left alone for the first time of the trip, and she starts missing her... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Immigration, Language, and Mistranslation Theme Icon
Sacrifice Theme Icon
Late that night, after most of the relatives have fallen asleep, June wakes up and hears Canning tell his aunt about his life in the past forty... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Storytelling and Tradition Theme Icon
Sacrifice Theme Icon
Canning’s aunt falls asleep, leaving just June and her father awake. June asks if he knew why Suyuan abandoned the twins in... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Immigration, Language, and Mistranslation Theme Icon
Fate and Autonomy Theme Icon
On the plane to meet her half-sisters, June is wracked by doubt, particularly about how she will tell her mother’s story to strangers... (full context)