In the first chapter of the novel The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan introduces the reader to Jing-mei Woo and reveals that her mother, Suyuan Woo, has recently passed away. As the novel opens with the story titled "The Joy Luck Club," Jing-mei is preparing to join her mother's...
In the first chapter of the novel The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan introduces the reader to Jing-mei Woo and reveals that her mother, Suyuan Woo, has recently passed away. As the novel opens with the story titled "The Joy Luck Club," Jing-mei is preparing to join her mother's friends as a member of the titular club at the mah-jongg table. She feels conflicted, as she is not confident she can actually fill her mother's place.
The other women, her mother's friends, whom she calls her "aunties," tell Jing-mei that they have been in contact with her mother's twin daughters, whom she had to abandon in China. Even though Jing-mei is aware of their existence from Suyuan's stories, she did not know that her mother kept trying to find them. Tragically, by the time they reply, Suyuan has passed, so the aunties decide Jing-mei should go to China to meet them in person, in place of her mother. She is tasked with filling her mother's absence in more ways than one in this chapter, and Jing-mei doubts that she can actually satisfy her half-sisters' desire to know their mother.
By the time the reader reaches the final chapter of the novel, "A Pair of Tickets," more stories have been told about Jing-mei's childhood and adulthood with her mother, recounting how Jing-mei felt pressure to become outstanding (whether as a child actor or pianist) and rebelled against her mother's expectations. Jing-mei travels to China with the feeling that she is a poor substitute for Suyuan but also that she didn't know her well enough to transmit who she was to her long-lost twin sisters.
However, once Jing-mei begins to travel through China, she starts to feel the pieces falling into place, and she connects with her Chinese heritage and her mother. On the train, she admits, "My mother was right. I am becoming Chinese." Through both her physical interaction with her mother's homeland and her father's stories about Suyuan, Jing-mei builds more confidence before she meets the twins; however, she still feels nervous until the moment she sees them.
As soon as they view each other, the women feel an instant connection. Jing-mei sees her mother in the twins, and they all repeat "'Mama, mama' ... as if she is among us." Jing-mei realizes as she embraces her sisters that the "part of [her that] is Chinese" is her family. As the novel closes, Jing-mei reflects that "Together we look like our mother ... her long-cherished wish."
Jing-mei previously thought about the twins with a bit of envy and also felt that her mother put all of her hopes on Jing-mei, an unfair pressure to be perfect in the place of these two lost daughters. Now, she concludes that her mother's wish was simply to have all of her children united and bonded. Jing-mei comes to a fuller understanding of her mother as an individual as she finally appreciates her mother's true feelings toward her. Tan brings the novel full circle by having Jing-mei complete this life-altering trip to China in Suyuan's place.