Illustration of the profiles of a young woman and an older woman facting away from each other

The Joy Luck Club

by Amy Tan

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Four Directions Summary

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Waverly Jong takes her mother to a Chinese restaurant, Four Directions, for lunch, for she has something important to tell her. Her mother complains about Waverly’s hair, the menu, the food, and the waiter. Waverly decides that there will probably never be a good time to tell her mother that she plans to marry her boyfriend, Rich Schields.

Waverly reflects that her mother has always ignored mentions of Rich and has quickly changed the subject when his name comes up. Now Waverly brings her mother back to her apartment so that her mother can see the evidence of Rich living there. Rich’s things are blended with Waverly’s and her daughter Shoshana’s. She shows her mother the mink coat Rich gave her, and her mother only criticizes it. Waverly is hurt when her mother still refuses to acknowledge Rich. She thinks back to the past.

When Waverly was ten and playing chess, she hated the way her mother showed her off and acted like Waverly’s chess success was the result of her own advice. Her mother made comments like “You don’t have to be so smart to win chess. It is just tricks.” Waverly hated it when she took credit, and this led to Waverly’s rebellion at the market.

After that, Waverly stopped practicing chess for a while in an attempt to get even with her mother. Her mother said nothing. When she finally decided to play again, her mother told her it would not be so easy now. Waverly came down with chicken pox, and when she got well and went back to chess, things had changed. Her vision of the game was different, and now she lost more often. Her confidence was gone. She quit playing completely at age fourteen.

Now Waverly is concerned that her mother will influence her perception of Rich. That is what happened with her first husband, Marvin. Her mother’s criticism changed her love and admiration to disappointment, contempt, and boredom, yet she is grateful for Shoshana. Waverly recognizes that her love for her daughter is mirrored by Rich’s own love for Waverly, and she does not want to look down upon a “love so pure.”

Waverly decides that she will bring Rich to a meal at her parents’ house after they eat at Auntie Suyuan’s house. Rich can praise her mother’s cooking over Auntie Suyuan’s and win her mother over. The meal does not go well. Rich drinks two glasses of the wine he brought, misuses his chopsticks and drops food down his front, and has no concept of Chinese etiquette. He even accidentally criticizes Waverly’s mother’s cooking. Waverly says nothing about the upcoming marriage.

Finally, Waverly makes a special trip to her parents’ house and breaks the news. Her mother already knows. Waverly has completely misunderstood her and is shocked by her mother’s combined strength and weakness. Her mother is so good at finding all her weak points, yet Waverly realizes that in many ways, her mother has been waiting for her daughter to invite her into her life. Rich and Waverly decide to postpone their wedding so that they can go to China for their honeymoon in the right season.

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