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

The Joy Luck Club

by Amy Tan

Start Free Trial

What do "hulihudu" and "heimongmong" mean in The Joy Luck Club and how did Rose acquire "wood"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The terms "hulihudu" and "heimongmong" are Chinese words indicating confusion.  Rose says that the closest translation for "hulihudu" would be "confused", and "heimongmong" might be best described as "dark fog".  In describing her emotions while working through a painful divorce, Rose realizes she has "been feeling 'hulihudu'", or confused; "everything around (her) seem(s) to be 'heimongmong'", or a dark fog.

Rose's mother once told her that she was confused all the time because she was "without wood...born without wood so that (she) listened to too many people".  Her mother says that the only way for a young girl to "grow strong and straight" is to listen to her mother, and that if she chooses to listen to others, she will only "grow crooked and weak".  Caught between American influences and her Chinese upbringing, Rose is confused by her mother's advice.  Her ambivalence has left her truly "without wood", and she lacks the confidence to assert herself and say what is on her mind.

Rose's husband Ted wants a divorce so he can marry someone else.  He condescendingly and coldheartedly dictates what he wants the terms of the divorce to be, and expects Rose to quietly sign the papers and accede to his wishes.  When Rose decides to fight back, defying her husband and asserting her opinion on what she wants as well, she shows that she has acquired some "wood" ("Without Wood").

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial