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The Joy Luck Club

by Amy Tan
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How does Jing-mei recognize her twin sisters?

Jing-mei recognizes her twin sisters when she sees her mother's features developing in a Polaroid photograph of the three of them together.

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In The Joy Luck Club, it is Jing-mei's twin sisters who recognize her when the three of them meet at the airport in Shanghai. At first, Jing-mei does not think that these women particularly resemble her or her mother, Suyuan. However, when her father takes a Polaroid photograph of the three of them together, Jing-mei watches as it develops, and sees her mother's features on all three of their faces.

This episode in The Joy Luck Club brings together several of the novel's major themes: family and self-recognition, as well as similarities and differences between women across generations and cultures. Jing-mei has often failed to recognize her own similarity to Suyuan, in terms of character as well as features, so it is unsurprising that she should initially fail to see her mother or herself reflected in these women, who appear to have nothing in common with her.

Connections take time to reveal themselves in this story, generally much more time than a Polaroid photograph takes to develop. However, Jing-mei can see the similarities between herself and the other women gradually emerging from nothing as the complex image is created, and this allows her to make the imaginative leap and see her mother's features in the women beside her.

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