The Joy Luck Club

Suyuan’s death is what sets off the events of The Joy Luck Club. Therefore, unlike the other mothers and daughters in the novel, who actively narrate their histories through the novel, Suyuan is only experienced through stories told by her daughter June, her husband Canning, and her three Joy Luck Club friends. In 1944, Suyuan was forced to flee China, leaving both her husband (who was fighting as a Chinese Nationalist against both the Communists and the Japanese) and her two baby girls behind. Though she remarries in the United States and has June seven years later, Suyuan never stops searching for her children. Her sacrifice represents the willingness of all mothers to protect their children over their own well-being.

Suyuan Woo Quotes in The Joy Luck Club

The The Joy Luck Club quotes below are all either spoken by Suyuan Woo or refer to Suyuan 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 and citation info for the quotes below refers 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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“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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Suyuan Woo Character Timeline in The Joy Luck Club

The timeline below shows where the character Suyuan 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... (full context)
Storytelling and Tradition Theme Icon
Immigration, Language, and Mistranslation Theme Icon
Sacrifice Theme Icon
Suyuan concocted the Joy Luck Club to combat the sorrows of her experiences in China during... (full context)
Storytelling and Tradition Theme Icon
Fate and Autonomy Theme Icon
Stuck in Kweilin with little optimism, Suyuan asks three other female refugees to pool their meager money with hers for a shared... (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... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Immigration, Language, and Mistranslation Theme Icon
Sacrifice Theme Icon
During Suyuan’s arduous journey, the wheelbarrow breaks and she abandons valuables along the road to carry her... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
...the game, June tries to leave, but the three women stop her and reveal that Suyuan had finally found her lost twin daughters’ addresses in China after decades of searching; however,... (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 recognizes that behind the anger, An-mei,... (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 she worked... (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... (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 mirror and cries at her... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Immigration, Language, and Mistranslation Theme Icon
Sacrifice Theme Icon
Suyuan sees a little Chinese girl playing the piano on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and decides... (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 June play. Suyuan enters June... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Fate and Autonomy Theme Icon
...her notes, and messes up the entire piece. June is stunned by her failure, but Suyuan is completely humiliated after bragging so much. Waverly tells June that not everyone can be... (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... (full context)
Fate and Autonomy Theme Icon
...expectations. Having internalized this sentiment, she constantly fails at life goals. On June’s thirtieth birthday, Suyuan gives her the used piano, saying that June had natural talent and could’ve been a... (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... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 2: Four Directions
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
...finally gets Lindo to acknowledge Rich through a sneaky plan: she first takes him to Suyuan and Canning’s house for dinner, then claims that Rich has never had better Chinese food.... (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... (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 Chinatown to buy ten whole crabs for a holiday dinner with the Jongs. Eating... (full context)
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... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Storytelling and Tradition Theme Icon
...firm couldn’t use any of it. She mocks June’s language, considering it old-fashioned in style. Suyuan agrees that her daughter is less sophisticated than Waverly. Humiliated, June carries dirty plates into... (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 died before... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 4: A Pair of Tickets
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
...she enters China, she immediately feels different, and senses her true connection to her heritage. Suyuan always claimed that being born Chinese meant having undeniable Chinese thoughts and emotions. June realizes... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Immigration, Language, and Mistranslation Theme Icon
...first go to Guangzhou, formerly Canton, to see Canning’s aunt. In the forty years since Suyuan and Canning emigrated, many of the cities changed spellings and full names. The journey makes... (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 two sisters she doesn’t even know. The worry seeps into her sleep, causing... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Immigration, Language, and Mistranslation Theme Icon
...first time of the trip, and she starts missing her mother again. She first wishes Suyuan could answer all the questions that June never got around to asking, such as recipes... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Immigration, Language, and Mistranslation Theme Icon
Sacrifice Theme Icon
...tell his aunt about his life in the past forty years, including how he met Suyuan in Chungking and their immigration to America. When Canning’s aunt brings up Suyuan’s twins, June... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Storytelling and Tradition Theme Icon
Sacrifice Theme Icon
...falls asleep, leaving just June and her father awake. June asks if he knew why Suyuan abandoned the twins in 1944, and Canning admits that he found out through conversations with... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Sacrifice Theme Icon
After fleeing Kweilin in 1944, Suyuan starts walking a long, heavily-trafficked road to Chungking, where her husband might be stationed. She... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Storytelling and Tradition Theme Icon
Sacrifice Theme Icon
Suyuan finally collapses on the side of the road, accepting that she’s close to death. The... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Fate and Autonomy Theme Icon
Sacrifice Theme Icon
Suyuan doesn’t remember falling unconscious or how much time passed after she left her babies, but... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Sacrifice Theme Icon
Canning now knows from the recent correspondences with Suyuan’s twins that they were rescued by an old peasant couple who were hiding in the... (full context)
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Storytelling and Tradition Theme Icon
Immigration, Language, and Mistranslation Theme Icon
Fate and Autonomy Theme Icon
Sacrifice Theme Icon
For the rest of her life, Suyuan secretly searches for her daughters from overseas, asking old friends in China to look anywhere... (full context)