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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Magpies Questions and Answers

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Study Questions
1. What do magpies represent?

2. The turtle tells An-mei’s mother to swallow her tears. What was the turtle’s reason?

3. Who is Yan Chang?

4. At first, An-mei is very happy at Wu Tsing’s. What factors contribute to her happiness?

5. An-mei describes the clock in her mother’s room in great detail and says she learned something from it. What did she learn?

6. Why does An-mei’s mother break one of the pearls in the necklace Second Wife gives An-mei?

7. How had Second Wife arranged for An-mei’s mother to become Wu Tsing’s fourth wife?

8. What weakness of Wu Tsing does Second Wife exploit?

9. Who is Syaudi?

10. Why was the timing of An-mei’s mother’s suicide so important?

Answers
1. Magpies are birds of joy.

2. The turtle said one person’s sadness makes another person happy.

3. Yan Chang is An-mei’s mother’s personal servant. She helps take care of An-mei.

4. An-mei is happy because she is with her mother, because she is surrounded by new and amazing things, and because she is living amid great wealth.

5. She learned not to pay attention to meaningless things.

6. An-mei’s mother wants An-mei to see Second Wife as the fraud she is. She does not want An-mei to give her loyalty to the woman who has caused so much pain.

7. First she invited An-mei’s mother for dinner. The next night she invited her to play mah jong and then to stay the night. During the night she left the bed they were sharing and let Wu Tsing in. After he raped An-mei’s mother, Second Wife spread the rumor that An-mei’s mother had seduced him. No one else would have anything to do with her, so she was forced to marry him.

8. Second Wife knows that Wu Tsing is afraid of ghosts. Whenever she pretends she is about to become one, she gets what she wants.

9. Syaudi is An-mei’s half brother, the son of her mother and Wu Tsing. Second Wife, however, has claimed him as her own.

10. The Chinese believed a dead person’s ghost returns on the third day after death. The ghost of a woman can get revenge for a bad marriage by destroying the man’s good fortune. They also believed all debts must be paid on the first day of the lunar new year. By making sure that she died two days before the lunar new year, An-mei’s mother makes Wu Tsing acutely aware of the debt he owes her, a debt he can repay only by treating An-mei and Syaudi with great respect. He promises to raise them as if they were the children of First Wife and to revere her as if she had been First Wife. In doing this, he elevates both An-mei and Syaudi to a status above Second Wife, a position An-mei exploits at once.

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