The Joy Luck Club
"Brilliant....Each story is a fascinating vignette, and together they they weave the reader through a world where the Moon Lady can grant any wish, where a child, promised in marriage at two and delivered at 12, can, with cunning, free herself; where a rich man's concubine secures her daughter's future by killing herself, and where a woman can live on, knowing she has lost her entire life." WASHINGTON POST BOOK WORLD A stunning literary achievement, THE JOY LUCK CLUB explores the tender and tenacious bond between four daughters and their mothers. The daughters know one side of their mothers, but they don't know about their earlier never-spoken of lives in China. The mothers want love and obedience from their daughters, but they don't know the gifts that the daughters keep to themselves. Heartwarming and bittersweet, this is a novel for mother, daughters, and those that love them.
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FEATHERS FROM A THOUSAND LI AWAY
Each of the four sections in the novel begins with a parable. Watch the video below to learn more about parables and, as you read, think about why Tan chose the parables she did, and how they echo the themes of the following stories. (This annotation contains a video)
From the openings paragraphs, which of the following is most likely to be a main theme in the novel?
Amy Tan is a famous Chinese-American novelist. Like the daughters in the story, Tan was born in the San Francisco Bay Area to Chinese immigrant parents. She got the idea for this novel after taking a trip to China with her mother to meet her three half-sisters. (This annotation contains an image)
What do you think of this revelation by Suyuan? How do you think this revelation would impact your relationship with your mother?
It is not uncommon for Asian Americans to pool their money together like this between families that they are close with. Their sense of community is generally stronger than traditional American culture, which places more emphasis on the individual.
How would you best describe Suyuan's tone in the highlighted passage?
Mah Jong is a Chinese game of skill that is played between four players with tiles that look similar to dominoes. You can see a group of people playing Mah Jong in the image below. (This annotation contains an image)
What did Jing-mei's mother want for her to do?
One of the main themes of this novel is the often complex relationship between mothers and daughters. Watch the video below on theme and look for evidence of this theme throughout the novel. (This annotation contains a video)
How does An-Mei's family treat her mother? How does this effect her growing up?
Despite An-mei having no memories of her absent mother, their bond is deep and infused with sadness.
An-Mei's mother _________________ when she cut off part of her flesh to cook into a soup to try and save her own mother.
Arranged marriages in China were commonplace until the mid-twentieth century.
What were Lindo's feelings towards her future husband?
In China, red banners are traditionally used to decorate the doors of a newlyweds' home and bring the couple happiness. (This annotation contains an image)
What is the promise that Lindo makes on her wedding day? Given the values of the culture in which Lindo was raised, does this promise surprise you?
The red candle is a symbol for marriage and it's traditions in Chinese culture. If the candle burns all night, the young couple will have a successful marriage. Lindo secretly blowing out the candle symbolizes Lindo taking control of her own fate over her marital duties. Watch the video below to learn more about symbolism. (This annotation contains a video)
What is Lindo's plan for getting out of her marriage?
Ying-ying spent years not speaking her mind, and now she is upset that her daughter is following in her silent and submissive footsteps.
What does Ying-ying's Amah teach her about wishes?
Sexism is a type of prejudice or bias on the basis of a person's sex. This type of discrimination plays a large role in the novel. Look for more examples as you read.
What have you been able to gather about the wealth and standing of Ying-Ying's family. How does it contrast with the other mothers whose stories you have now read?
Ying-ying thinks her mother will come get her, but she is left alone after a scolding from her Amah. In many of these stories that the mothers tell, they have been abandoned in some way by their own mothers.
"In one small moment, we had both lost the world, and there was no way to get it back" is an example of
We have heard each of the mothers tell their stories, and in this section we will hear from each of the daughters.
Which virtue would you say is very important to Waverly's mother?
Waverly has inherited her mother's head for strategy. Lindo's plan to get out of her unhappy marriage by tricking her mother-in-law into thinking that it is cursed shows the same kind of skills needed to win at chess (plotting, thinking ahead, anticipating someone else's move). (This annotation contains an image)
Do you think Waverly's mother was using her to show off, as Waverly accuses, or is she simply proud of her daughter? Do you think that some of this argument could have been caused by cultural differences?
Belief in ghosts is very commonplace in traditional Chinese culture.
Lena's father always speaking for her mother is another example of ____________ in the text.
Tan is using foreshadowing through Lena's narrative. As you read, think about what event Tan could be foreshadowing. (This annotation contains a video)
How would you describe the narration in this novel?
Lena sees how different the dynamics in families are, which gives her hope for her sad family life.
Would you describe the early relationship between Rose and Ted as a functional or a dysfunctional one? Cite examples from the text to support your answer.
The concept of destiny is one of the themes of the novel. As you read, notice some characters take control of their destines, like Lindo. Others think that whatever happens is out of their control, like Ying-ying.
Rose's thoughts are ___________ that something bad is going to happen
Though Rose feels certain that the family will blame her for Bing's death, they each blame themselves.
How would you best describe An-Mei's state of mind?
This paragraph highlights the novel's theme of immigrant identity.
What kind of transformation is happening inside of Jing-mei as she studies herself in the mirror?
Below is a video of the piece "Pleading Child" that Jing-mei is playing for the talent show. (This annotation contains a video)
Which is the most difficult part of the talent show fiasco for Jing-mei?
As mentioned earlier, one of the major themes in the novel is about mother-daughter relationships. In many of the mother-daughter relationships in the book, the daughters feel like they have let down their mothers in one way or another by actions like dropping out of college. Meanwhile, many of the mothers feel that they have let down their daughters by actions like abandoning them.
What is the significance of "Perfectly Contented" being the other half of "Pleading Child" that Jing-mei never learned how to play?
"Bleach and sponge cost so much" is an example of verbal irony. After watching the video below, determine why the quote can be considered an example of verbal irony. (This annotation contains a video)
What does Lena think is the cause of Arnold's death?
"Post-prandial" means after lunch or dinner.
Harold's tone could best be described as
Harold thinks of the marriage as a business transaction more than as a true partnership. Ice cream being on the expense list of things that they share is symbolic of how little thought and care Harold puts into the marriage. (This annotation contains an image)
Is Ying-ying's question only about the vase, or is it about Lena's marriage, too? Why don't you think Lena stops it?
Waverly is afraid of her mother's reaction to her engagement. Maternal disapproval of a mate is a common thread in the stories of three of the four daughters.
What does Waverly want from her mother?
Waverly lost her confidence in her chess game after the incident with her mother.
This paragraph shows us that despite wanting to rebel, Lindo's opinion ______________ to Waverly.
Does Waverly's plan to get her mother to have Rich over for dinner sound like something that the young Lindo would have thought of?
Waverly thinks that Rich is making a bad impression on her mother because he is failing to pick up on their cultural cues. What do you think?
"And now I felt numb, strangely weak, as if someone had unplugged me and the current running through me had stopped" is an example of a simile. Watch the video below to learn how to tell the difference between similes and metaphors. (This annotation contains a video)
Which theme in the novel is Tan showcasing in this paragraph?
Dreams can be a powerful literary device in novels. In this dream, Rose explores her inner fears about disobeying her mother.
Who is the only person with whom Rose hasn't spoken to regarding the breakdown of her marriage?
It is a common thought amongst the four daughters that their mothers can read their minds.
Watch this short video from the Joy Luck Club movie about Rose and Ted's relationship, and then answer the question on the following page. (This annotation contains a video)
Compare the movie clip you just watched to what you think Rose and Ted's relationship is like in the book. Has Rose just shifted the power dynamic by refusing to sign the divorce papers?
Immigrant identity is one of the main themes in the novel. Even though Suyuan has lived in America for decades, she enjoys guessing where other Chinese immigrants are from.
What is the most likely reason why Suyuan didn't want to eat the crab with the torn-off leg?
As we've seen in comments the mother characters have said before, humility is a very large virtue. Jing-mei, or June, as her mother is calling her here, must feel very betrayed by her mother's humility about her.
Why does Suyuan give Jing-mei the jade pendant?
Even though An-Mei wanted to raise Rose to have a backbone, Rose still has the same passivity as her mother. An-mei wonders if that is simply the fate of the girls in her family; this illustrates the themes of both sexism and destiny in the novel.
What is the message of the parable that An-mei's mother tells her? Why are they crying?
Tientsin, now called Tianjin, is one of the major metropolis cities in China. During the time when An-mei's mother moved there, it was a busting port city. (This annotation contains an image)
What surprises An-mei about her new home?
Concubines in China were quite common among wealthy men. We learned in the chapter "The Moon Lady" that Ying-ying's father also had concubines. There are still some concubines among the upper classes in modern China, known as er nai, which literally translates to "second wife." (This annotation contains an image)
"She makes clouds with one hand, rain with the other" is an example of
Below is a picture of Petaiho beach, where An-mei's mother hopes to have a home. (This annotation contains an image)
Yan Chang tells An-mei the story of how her mother became one of Wu Tsing's concubines: it was arranged one night by Second Wife that Wu Tsing would rape An-mei's mother, who would become disgraced in society as a result, and have no choice left but to become one of his concubines. How does this story-- that a woman who was raped was disgraced, but not her rapist-- illustrate the theme of sexism in the novel?
An-mei's mother killed herself to give An-mei a better life. This is meant to represent the ultimate maternal sacrifice.
Ying-ying thinking that the guest bedroom should be the best bedroom in the house is another example of ________________.
Ying-ying has a premonition that she will marry this bad man, and thinks her fate is sealed. She chooses to follow what she believes is her destiny over free will.
Ying-ying thinks that when Lena looks at her, she sees
What Ying-ying describes happening to her is the same as not only what happened to her daughter Lena, but also to Rose. All three women became ghosts of themselves in their marriages.
Which of the novel's themes does Tan allude to in the highlighted paragraph? Cite examples from the text in your answer.
Lindo puts on her "American face" for Waverly's hair stylist. To Lindo, this is her insincere face.
Lindo believes that in America it is
Fortune cookies are not Chinese at all-- they are an American invention! (This annotation contains an image)
What question is Tin Jong trying to ask Lindo?
After so long in America, Lindo thinks of herself as neither fully Chinese or American. She has lost her sense of having a true cultural identity outside of her identity as an immigrant.
Why do the ladies of the Joy Luck Club write to Suyuan's daughters as if she were still alive? Do you agree with that decision?
Just as Waverly says to Lindo, the daughters of the Joy Luck Club will never be able to pass for Chinese citizens.
"Almost turned heaven and earth upside down trying to think of a way" is an example of
Jing-mei was looking forward to an elaborate Chinese feast on her first night in China, but, at the behest of their relatives, they will be eating American food from their hotel's room service.
Upon finding out the meaning of her name, Jing-mei feels
Thinking that she would die, Suyuan placed all of her valuables in the clothing worn by her babies, along with instructions on how to help them find their mother.
What does Canning think killed Suyuan? How does his theory relate to the strength of the mother-daughter bonds seen throughout the novel?
In the closing of the novel, when Jing-mei is united with her sisters, she also discovers her true Chinese identity. Her sisters also serve as a bridge to deeper understanding of her mother, and hopefully between all of the mothers and daughters of the Joy Luck Club.