The Joy Luck Club Questions and Answers
by Amy Tan

The Joy Luck Club book cover
Start Your Free Trial

What is Ying-Ying St. Clair's character like in The Joy Luck Club?

Expert Answers info

Ester Baumgartner, Ph.D. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseTeacher (K-12)

bookPh.D. from University of Miami (Fla.)


calendarEducator since 2016

write785 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Arts, and Law and Politics

Ying-Ying St. Clair narrates two chapters of The Joy Luck Club, one about her childhood and one later in her life. In the childhood chapter, "The Moon Lady," Ying-Ying describes her upbringing, when she "kept [her] true nature hidden." She traces the process of losing herself to the Moon Festival of 1918. Ying-Ying seems to have been a curious, questioning child, but she is told that "A girl can never ask, only listen." She is also told that she should "stand still." By doing so, Ying-Ying "discover[s] [her] shadow." This story gives the impression that Ying-Ying's self is split on this day and that she has a "dark side" that contains the parts of her identity that maybe do not fit the expectations of who she should be as an upper-class Chinese woman. This clearly causes Ying-Ying stress, as she looks on those who are "carefree" with envy. Young Ying-Ying appears to have an identity crisis, as she is lost at the festival and feels like she is never the same after.

As an older woman, Ying-Ying feels that her daughter does not truly know her, either, despite her assertion that mothers and daughters inherently are part of each other. Ying-Ying also describes her ability to "know a thing before it happens." She uses this intuition to predict the break-up of Lena's marriage. Ying-Ying feels that her daughter does not see "inward" the way Ying-Ying does; this lack of awareness, Ying-Ying thinks, may have led to the collapse of Lena's marriage.

She hopes to help her daughter (and herself) by coming clean about all aspects of her past. She wants to tell Lena her story to regain her voice and her identity to give both women strength.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial