The Joy Luck Club Study Guide

PART I: FEATHERS FROM A THOUSAND LI AWAY

1. A parable is a tale which illustrates a lesson or moral. What lesson does the story of
the swan teach?
The swan was an unexpected gift, just like the daughter she would soon have.

2. It is important for a woman to develop her individual identity so she has the strength
to survive hard times.
In what ways does the parable at the beginning of this chapter help to support the
theme above?
The lady had to become independent in order to travel to America on her own

3. Some critics believe the swan feather stands for something larger than itself. What
do you think the swan feather might represent in this story?
The feather represents something to hold on to for luck

The Joy Luck Club: Jing-Mei Woo (Daughter) Suyuan Woo (Mother)

1. Why does Suyuan begin the first Joy Luck Club in Kweilin?
In order to escape the fear and uncertainty of war

2. Briefly describe a typical Club meeting. (Note: Mah jong is an ancient Chinese game played with dice, tiles, and racks.)
they cooked feasts, played mahjong, and traded stories into the night

3. Why do the women name their parties “Joy Luck”?
they could hope to be lucky, and that hope was their only joy

4. Suyuan tells her daughter that “…to despair was to wish back for something already
lost.” What is the “something” Suyuan lost during the Japanese invasion of China?
Why do you think she decides to finally reveal this painful part of her past to her
daughter?
She lost her other children. She finally reveals this because she knows that her doughter is old enough to understand

5. Why does the San Francisco Joy Luck Club play the stock market?
Because it was the only thing they could do that required pure luck and no skill

6. List three of the five elements Suyuan believes comprise each person. In what way
does too much of each element impact a person’s life?
5 elements: wood, fire, earth, water, and metal. Too much metal can weigh down someone’s spirit, taking away their free-thinking

7. One of the themes in this novel is the inability of the Americanized daughters to
understand their Chinese mothers. Find an example of this conflict between Suyuan
and her daughter.
Suyuan would always want her daughter to understand the Chinese way and culture, but Jing-mei was never interested and lived an American lifestyle

8. Define the Chinese word chaswei. To
To go after with the intent to catch

9. How does Jing-mei Woo know which seat at the mah jong table was her mother’s
place?
Her mother used to say “The East is where things begin”

10. What does the story of Auntie An-mei’s trip to China reveal about Communist
China?
Her brother’s family scrambled to stuff from the Americans because such things like that were not allowed in China.

11. In the following passage from the story Jing-mei Woo is talking about her problems
communicating with her mother. She says:

“My mother and I never really understood one another. We translated each other’s meanings and I seemed to hear less than what was said, while my mother heard more.” (Pg. 27)

Find an incident from the story, which supports Jing-mei’s statement.

Jing-mei was a school dropout and never intended to go back to finish but her mother always wanted her to and told everyone that she did

12. How does Jing-mei react when her Aunts tell her they are going to send her to China so she can tell her half-sisters all about their mother Suyuan? Why does Jing-mei’s behavior disturb the old Chinese women?
She knows that the women see their daughters through her

13. What is the significance of the last line in this story:

“And I am sitting, at my mother’s place at the mah jong table, on the East, where things begin”? (Pg. 32)

she is starting a new life in her mother’s place

Scar: An-Mei Hsu (Mother) Rose Hsu Jordan (Daughter)

1. Why is An-mei taught that her mother is a ghost?
They don’t want her mother to ever be mentioned again

2. Briefly summarize the parables about the pregnant girl and the girl who refuses to
listen. What lessons do the parables teach young An-mei?
A greedy girl whose belly grew fatter and fatter. She poisoned herself so that she wouldn’t tell whose child it was. Monks cut her open and found a melon.
Girl who refused to listen to the elders. Shook her head to vigorously in refusal that he brain poured out of her ears.

3. What does it mean in Chinese to have no shou?
It’s how a daughter honors her mother

4. Why is An-mei afraid of her father’s portrait?
She is scared she won’t honor him correctly

5. For what reasons do you think Popo continually tries to scare An-mei with parables
and stories about her father’s painting?
She wants An-mei to obey authority

6. How did An-mei’s neck become scarred? What evidence is there in the story that
Popo knows how strong An-mei’s love is for her mother?
A pot of hot soup spilled on her. She wanted to recover quickly so that her mother would not forget her

7. What does Popo’s daughter (An-mei’s mother) do to illustrate the great bond between a mother and a daughter?
She cuts a chunk of flesh from her arm to try and save her mother

The Red Candle: Lindo Jong (Mother) Waverly Jong (Daughter)

1. What does Lindo Jong mean when she says her daughter’s promise to come to dinner is “only fourteen carats”?
a promise of fourteen carats will not be honored; only a twenty-four carat promise is worth anything

2. Why does young Lindo’s mother refer to her daughter as Huang Taitai’s daughter?
She does not want to refer to her as her own child because she feels she would be stealing something she cannot have back

3. What is Lindo’s first impression of the Huangs’ home? Why does Lindo work very
hard learning to sew and cook in the Huangs’ servant’s quarters?
She was in awe of the magnificent mansion. She became a servant to honor her parents’ wishes for her to be a good wife

4. In what ways is Lindo like the wind?
Her thoughts are powerful even though they are invisible

5. What is the significance of the red marriage candle? Under what circumstances does
Lindo decide to blow out her husband’s end of the candle?
If the ends of the candle blow out then the marriage is doomed, but if it doesn’t then they shall be wed forever. Obviously she didn’t want to marry this guy and blew it out.

6. Why does Huang Taitai remove all of Lindo’s gold bracelets? How does Lindo feel
without her gold bracelets?
Because she had “too much metal”. She feels lighter and can move more freely without them

7. List the three parts of Lindo’s dream that convinces Huang Taitai to end Lindo’s
marriage to her son.
The wind blew out the candle, Tyan-yu got a servant girl pregnant, and the girl had imperial blood

8. Why does Lindo buy another gold bracelet for herself every time she gets some extra money? For what reasons does she remove all of her gold on the day of the Festival of Pure Brightness?
They are a symbol of her own purity. She takes them off once a year to remember the day she became true to herself

The Moon Lady: Ying-Ying St. Clair (Mother) Lena St. Clair (Daughter)

1. Why do you think Amah makes up the story of the five evils when Ying-Ying asks
about the stink from the burning incense?
So that she would think she was safe from the evils

2. What is the definition of a secret wish? Why is the Moon Lady special?
A secret wish is something you want but cannot say. The Moon Lady grants the wish.

3. Why does Ying-Ying love her shadow? What do you think the shadow might represent
in this story?
Her shadow is just like her in every way. It represents her being pulled toward obedience

4. For what reasons can the story of the Moon Lady be called a myth?
It is a belief of the Chinese culture but is not true. If you believe it that’s cool. Do what you want.

5. Use the following passage from the story to illustrate how the story of the Moon Lady can also be considered to be a parable:

“For woman is yin,” she cried sadly, “the darkness within, where untempered
passions lie. And man is yang, bright truth lighting our minds.” (Pg. 82)

her mistake banished her to the moon

6. One of the themes in this novel is the idea that appearances are often different from
reality. Find an incident from this chapter that helps to illustrate this theme.
The Moon Lady was a dude

7. Another theme in this novel is the inability of the Chinese mothers to communicate
with their Americanized daughters. What do the following lines from the beginning
of this chapter tell the reader about Ying-Ying’s relationship to her daughter? In what
ways are Ying-Ying and her daughter alike?

“And I want to tell her this: We are lost, she and I, unseen and not seeing, unheard
and not hearing, unknown by others.” (Pg. 64)

they don’t see each other clearly; they don’t have the same understanding

PART II: THE TWENTY-SIX MALIGNANT GATES

1. What lesson or moral is taught by the parable at the beginning of Part II?
Sometimes there are perils you cannot see

2. In what ways does this parable help to illustrate the following theme from this novel?
The generation gap, including age and heritage, between mothers and daughters
makes communication between them difficult.
A mother will do whatever it takes to protect her children but they don’t always listen and get themselves into more trouble

3. What might the book, The Twenty-six Malignant Gates represent in this story?
The book represents trust because the daughter can’t read it and has to believe what her mothers says

Rules of the Game: Waverly Jong (Daughter) Lindo Jong (Mother)

1. What is the “art of invisible strength” Waverly learns from her mother?
Not asking or being obvious about what you want

2. Find two incidents in this chapter where Lindo demonstrates her fierce Chinese
pride.
She would show off her daughter in public and gave her special treatment

3. State a generalization about life Lindo is trying to teach Waverly in the following
passage from this chapter.

“This American rules,” she concluded at last. “Every time people
come out from foreign country, must know rules. You not know, judge
say, Too bad, go back. They not telling you why so you can use their
way go forward. They say, Don’t know why, you find our yourself. But
they knowing all the time. Better you take it, find out why yourself.”
(Pg. 95)

They think you need to find out things on your own instead of asking

4. In what way does the wind mentioned in the following selection from the story relate
back to the wind mentioned in the story about the red candle?
The wind is strong even though it is invisible. Her thoughts and stuff ya know.

5. When Waverly returns home after running away, her mother says with a triumphant
smile. “Strongest wind cannot be seen.” (Pg. 103) For what reasons do you agree or
disagree with Lindo’s belief that she is the victor in her battle with Waverly? Cite
incidents from the story to support your answer.
Well Waverly had that dream or something that had her mom beating her in chess. So clearly the mom won.

6. One of the themes in this novel is the conflict between the Chinese heritage of the
mothers and the American heritage of their daughters. Find an example of this
conflict in this story.
The mothers get upset when the daughters have white boyfriends and stuff

The Voice from the Wall: Lena St. Clair (Daughter) Ying-ying St. Clair
(Mother)

1. What is Lena saying about her mother in the following passage? In what way is
Ying-ying similar to An-mei’s mother from the story, Scar?
Lena saw her mother become very depressed. Both ying-ying and an-mei were saddened by the loss of family.

2. List three ways, Ying-ying behaves like an unbalanced woman.
She changed her name, lost her year of the tiger, and never expressed her feelings. Plus she was preggo.

3. One of the themes in this story is the generation gap and cultural gap between the
mothers and daughters resulting in a lack of communication between them. Find a
passage in this story which illustrates this communications gap by pointing out the
fact that Lena can understand her mother’s Chinese words, but not their meanings.

4. How does Lena define the “worst possible thing that could happen” in her life? In
what way is Ying-ying’s decline into insanity an example of the “worst possible thing
that could happen”?
When her mother lost the baby she experience the worst possible thing, but her experiencing this means that things can only improve over time

5. What lesson is taught by the parable about the mother who must die the death of a
thousand cuts?
You have to experience the worst possible thing in order to appreciate what is yet to come

6. Why is Lena both jealous of and sorry for the girl in the next apartment?
She is sorry that the girl has a terrible life but jealous that her life was worse than hers

Half and Half: Rose Hsu Jordan (Daughter) An-mei Hsu (Mother)

1. What does the white Bible under the table leg in An-mei’s home represent in this
story?
The bible represents An-mei’s faith, which is isn’t consistent but is there for her when she needs it.

2. What is the main reason Ted wants to divorce Rose?
She doesn’t make any decisions

3. Briefly describe the importance the book The Twenty-Six Malignant Gates has for Anmei.
She would find a way to protect her children from all twenty six of the dangers

4. How does the following excerpt from the story relate both to Bing’s death and to
Rose’s impending divorce? What generalization about life does it teach?
In both she saw the signs of danger but didn’t do anything about it. You have to pay attention to your life and the life around you.

5. Why is it significant that Bing’s name is written in the Bible in erasable pencil?
That Bing is now with the others on the list in heaven and An-mei will always remember

Two Kinds: Jing-Mei Woo (Daughter) Suyuan Woo (Mother)

1. List the ways Suyuan tries to make her daughter into a prodigy. Why does she settle
on Jing-Mei becoming a great pianist?
She tried to make her a Chinese Shirley Temple and have her memorize a bunch of random facts. She settles on the piano because she saw a girl on tv with Jing’s characteristics.

2. In what ways does Jing-Mei fail her mother by falling short of her mother’s
expectations and asserting her own will?
She wouldn’t try very hard and promised herself that she wouldn’t become something she wasn’t.

3. What do you think the piano might represent in this story?
It represents not being perfect but perfectly contented

4. Why is it significant that the song Jing-Mei refuses to memorize has two parts, one
called “Pleading Child” and the other called “Perfectly Contented”?
She thought her mother wanted her to be perfect but she really wanted her to be perfectly contented

PART III: AMERICAN TRANSLATION

1. What is peach-blossom luck?
Something that attracts love

2. Briefly state the moral or lesson this parable is teaching. Notice the phrase “twice- used Macy’s bag” and compare it to the lush condominium large enough for a fancy armoire.
Not only the poor have problems but the rich do also

Rice Husband: Lena St. Clair (Daughter) Ying-ying St. Clair (Mother)

1. Define Chunwang chilhan. What kinds of things can Ying-ying predict? Why is
Lena worried about her mother’s opinion of their new home?
One thing is always a result of another. Ying-ying predicts bad things that affect the family. She doesn’t want to hear her mother’s criticism because she doesn’t want to think there will be a problem in her marriage, even though there is.

2. Why does Lena, as a young school girl, begin leaving food on her plate?
She wanted the snotty boy Arnold to die

3. Define anorexia. What does Lena’s husband’s ignorance of her dislike for ice cream
suggest to the reader about the quality of their marriage?
Anorexia is when someone become unnaturally skinny from not eating. He just says “oh well” like he doesn’t care about Lena’s personal stuff or even the marriage.

4. List two ways Lena helps Harold to establish his business. In what ways does she
share or not share in his success?
She is the one who told him to start his own business and later suggested the more avant-garde thematic restaurant designs. Harold gets about 7x more profit than she does and none of the credit for the ideas.

5. Find the sentences in this story which help to connect it to the whole collection of
stories by once again referring to one of the characters as a “ghost.”
“She became so thin now you cannot see her,” says my mother. “She like a ghost, disappear.”

6. Why does Ying-ying refer to the small bedroom table as Chunwang chihan? What
does this small table represent in this story?
Putting something on the table will result in it falling. It represents the marriage and how it can easily collapse.

What is Lena referring to when she says, “And it’s such a simple question”?
The question is why she didn’t fix the problems with her and Harold earlier on. Or it could be the question of what she really wants.

8. In what way is this story connected to the parable at the beginning of Part III.
The parable was about the peach blossom luck, which is something that attracts love, and the story was about the problems Lena and Harold had with their love.

Four Directions: Waverly Jong (Daughter) Lindo Jong (Mother)

1. Why does Waverly think she and her mother are incompatible because her mother is
a Horse and she is a Rabbit?
1. Why does Waverly think she and her mother are incompatible because her mother is
a Horse and she is a Rabbit?

2. For what reasons does Waverly want her mother to see her apartment?
She wanted her to see that she and Rich were living together

3. After her fight with her mother, why do you think young Waverly is unable to regain her earlier success at chess?
She didn’t know it at the time, but she really only did well to please her mother, and now that she doesn’t care, her subconscious mind doesn’t see the need to do well anymore

4. How does Waverly trick her mother into inviting Rich over for dinner?
Waverly wrote to Suyuan that Rich said she had made the best Chinese food he had ever tasted. Lindo would then have to one-up Suyuan and cook a better meal for them.

5. List three important Chinese customs Rich violates at dinner which Waverly believes
are insults to her mother.
He brought wine and drank two glasses of it, spilled food on himself when he tried to use chopsticks, got huge servings of food instead of small polite ones, refused to get seconds, and agreed when Lindo said that the food was not salty enough. This guy is a mess.

6. Find a passage in this story in which Waverly finally learns to accept her mother as a person instead of always seeing her as an adversary.
But in the brief instant that I had peer over the barriers I could finally see what was really there: an old woman, a wok for her armour, a knitting needle for her sword, getting a little crabby as she waited patiently for her daughter to invite her in.

7. State a theme of this novel from the following passage:
“The three of us, leaving our differences behind, stepping on the plane together,
sitting side by side, lifting off, moving West to reach the East.” Pg. 205
The daughter will accept the Chinese heritage of the mother and the mother will accept the American culture of the daughter

Without Wood: Rose Hsu Jordan (Daughter) An-mei Hsu (Mother)

1. Who is Old Mr. Chou? Why is young Rose afraid to go see him?
Mr Chou was the guardian of a door that opened into dreams. Rose was afraid because he took her to bad places

2. Define the Chinese words “hulihudu” and “heimongmong.” In what ways is Rose
both hulihudu and heimongmong?
“confused” and “dark fog”. Rose is both because of her feelings and thoughts about Ted.

3. What does An-mei mean when she tells Rose she is without wood? What does Anmei think Rose can do so she has wood?
She means that Rose listens to too many people. She has to stand tall and only listen to her mother.

4. It is clear that Rose’s husband wants a divorce. Why then does An-mei tell her
daughter to stop talking to a psychiatrist and talk to her husband?
She wanted her to speak up

5. At the end of the story, why do you think Rose dreams that her mother is in the
garden planting weeds? What does the garden represent in this story?
Rose has taken root like the weeds and will survive through life’s blows. The garden represents Rose’s life.

6. In what way is An-mei correct when she wants Rose to listen to her mother?
Of course Anmei wants Rose to listen to her mother because she is her mother

Best Quality: Jing-Mei Woo (Daughter) Suyuan Woo (Mother)

1. Why did the bartender’s mother give him a jade pendant?
To tell him that he was still worth something after his divorce

2. What does Jing-Mei’s inability to watch the crabs cooking reveal to the reader about
her character?
She doesn’t like to see her friends get hurt

3. List two reasons Jing-Mei feels humiliated at the dinner.
Waverly makes her feel poor and think that her hair is gross

4. What is Suyuan trying to tell her daughter in the following passages from the story?
Why does Suyuan want to give Jing-Mei the pendant?
That she thinks differently and that make her special.
To prove to June that she is not like the rest

5. In what ways, at the end of this story, is Jing-mei like her mother?
She reacts to the cat on the sill the same way that her mother did

PART IV: QUEEN MOTHER OF THE WESTERN SKIES

1. What generalization about life does the parable at the beginning of this section
teach?
Recognizing evil in others puts evil in yourself; one must lose one’s innocence but not one’s hope

Magpies: An-Mei Hsu (Mother) Rose Hsu Jordon (Daughter)

1. The moral of the story about the turtle is:

“…t is useless to cry. Your tears do not wash away your sorrows. They feed someone else’s joy.” (Pg. 244)

How does this moral or lesson apply to Rose’s divorce from Ted described in the story, Without Wood?

There is no point in being upset for the bad that happens. If you continue to cry then your life will always be sad.

2. State a generalization about life An-mei learns from the big wooden clock.
It keeps her awake and teaches her to not listen to the evil

3. Why does An-mei’s mother insist An-mei wear the pearl necklace for one week?
It’s her punishment

4. For what reasons does An-mei refer to the First wife as a ghost? How does the First
wife cause An-mei’s mother pain?
First wife doesn’t make second wife bow to her and ignores everyone

5. Another of the themes is the confusion between appearance and reality. Which of
the incidents in this story helps to illustrate this theme?
The pearl necklace was actually made of glass

6. What does An-mei’s mother teach her daughter before she dies? How does An-mei
demonstrate her strength to the Second wife?
She teaches her daughter that she needs to speak up when she needs to. She makes second wife lose her power

7. What does An-mei learn from the article about the birds.
Magpies died of starvation

Waiting Between the Trees: Ying-Ying St. Clair (Mother) Lena St. Clair
(Daughter)

1. What does the wind represent in this passage from the story?
The wind represents her fate

2. As a tiger lady, what personality traits does Ying-ying believe she possesses?
The power to foresee

3. Why does Ying-ying decide to marry St. Clair? What does she give up when she
marries him?
She didn’t want to have to deal with anything anymore. She gave up her spirit that caused her pain

4. One of the repeating images in this novel is that of a ghost. In what way is Ying-ying like a ghost?
She has little emotion

5. Why does Ying-ying decide to tell Lena about her past?
To give her the spirit and bring out her daughter’s tiger nature

Double Face: Lindo Jong (Mother) Waverly Jong (Daughter)

1. Why does Lindo want her daughter to have “American circumstances and Chinese
character”?
so that she wont be teased when she visits china

2. What is Lindo saying to her daughter when they look at their similar images in the
mirror and she tells Waverly “You can see your character in your face,…You can see
your future”? (Pg. 292)
she can see her future through her mother

3. Why does Lindo name her daughter after the street where they live?
So that she knows she belongs

4. For what reasons does Waverly like being a person with two faces?
She likes being both Chinese and American

5. What does the crooked nose represent in this section?
Change

A Pair of Tickets: Jing-Mei Woo (Daughter) Suyuan Woo (Mother)

1. What do the following Chinese names mean in English?
Chwun Yu – spring rain
Chwun Hwa – soring flower
Suyuan – long cherished wish
Jing-mei – quality essence of something- little sister

2. Why is it important to Jing-mei that Auntie Lindo write to her half-sisters in China
to tell them that Suyuan is dead
June doesn’t want the twins to hate her

who needs number 3
for real

4. What theme does the last paragraph in the story illustrate?
They all look like their mother and they love each other, meaning that her “long cherished wish” was fullfilled