The Joy Luck Club


Amy Tan

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Themes and Colors
Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Storytelling and Tradition Theme Icon
Immigration, Language, and Mistranslation Theme Icon
Fate and Autonomy Theme Icon
Sacrifice Theme Icon
Sexism and Power Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Joy Luck Club, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Sacrifice Theme Icon

The Joy Luck Club shows that all actions of love require some level of sacrifice, and that women in particular sacrifice themselves for the good of others. The greatest sacrifice in the book is Suyuan’s decision to leave her twin babies in a safe spot to be rescued during the Japanese invasion of Kweilin. Nearly dead herself from dysentery, she places them near a road along with all her remaining money and her husband’s information, believing they’d be saved if they seemed abandoned. Her willingness to put her daughters’ lives before her own ensures their rescue. When An-mei’s mother returns to care for her dying mother, she slices off a piece of her own arm and uses an ancestral recipe to prepare a medicinal broth, ignoring the physical pain. These actions show that no cost is too great when love is threatened.

These memories of sacrifice from the immigrant mothers of the novel are directly weighed with the petulance of the American daughters, who do not value their mothers’ generosities. Unable to afford piano lessons in cash, Suyuan works extra hours cleaning a piano teacher’s house so that June can learn how to play. At the time, June resents her mother’s desire to turn her into some sort of child prodigy, and refuses to practice. As an adult however, she appreciates her mother’s attempts to foster her natural talent. Though rarely appreciated in the moment, the novel argues that the act of sacrifice is the ultimate sign of love, giving up anything for the sake of another.

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Sacrifice Quotes in The Joy Luck Club

Below you will find the important quotes in The Joy Luck Club related to the theme of Sacrifice.
Feathers from a Thousand Li Away Quotes

“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:
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:
The Red Candle 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 Moon Lady 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:
A Pair of Tickets Quotes

"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: