The chapter “Without Wood” in Amy Tan’s novel is concerned with Rose Hsu Jordan’s relationship with her mother, An-mei, and her husband, Ted Jordan. Ted had earlier told Rose that he wanted a divorce and now he has seen a lawyer and served Rose with paper. Because Roe had always been very passive and allowed Ted to make the decisions, he assumes that she will not content his wishes. However, Rose finds inner strength—the Chinese concept of “wood”—and stands up to him.
Even before she got involved with Ted, Rose had difficulties throughout her life forming and standing by her own opinions. An-mei has a very strong personality, and she shapes Rose’s path in life. An-mei believes, however, that she has urged her daughter to be independent, and sees Ted as the one who damaged her self-confidence. An-mei correctly identifies one of Ted’s reasons for seeking the divorce as his involvement with another woman. Although Rose initially refuses to believe this, she must admit her mother was right when he announces his plan to remarry.
Their house is a symbol of the marriage, because Ted had done all the gardening and now the garden is neglected. Tan creates an analogy between Rose’s weakness and the weeds growing in the garden. He assumes that Rose will leave the house within a month, but she refuses. She decides to get her own lawyer and make a claim for the house. She will be like a tree, not a weed, and will show that she does have the quality of wood.