The Joy Luck Club Additional Summary

Amy Tan

Summary

(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan’s first novel, debuted to critical acclaim. It takes its place alongside Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior (1976) as a chronicle of a Chinese American woman’s search for and exploration of her ethnic identity. The Joy Luck Club is the best-selling, accessible account of four Chinese-born mothers and their four American-born daughters. One of the women, Suyuan Woo, has died before the story opens, but the other seven women tell their own stories from their individual points of view. Critics have noted that this approach is an unusually ambitious one. Nevertheless, the novel has reached a wide audience, especially since it was made into a feature film in 1992.

At the center of the story is Jing-mei “June” Woo, who has been asked to replace her dead mother as a member of the Joy Luck Club, a group of four women who meet for food and mah-jongg. Although Americanized and non-Chinese-speaking June is initially uncertain whether she wishes to join her mother’s friends, she discovers that these women know things about her mother’s past that she had never imagined. Her decision to become part of the Joy Luck Club culminates in a visit to China, where she meets the half sisters whom her mother was forced to abandon before she fled to the United States. The other Chinese-born women have similarly tragic stories, involving abandonment, renunciation, and sorrow in their native country. June...

(The entire section is 413 words.)

Summary

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

After Suyuan Woo passes away, her daughter, Jing-mei, is asked by her mother’s friends to take her mother’s place as a member of their Joy Luck Club, a group of friends who play Mah-Jongg together. At first, Jing-mei is reluctant to join the club. She is not very good at Mah-Jongg and not particularly interested in hearing her “aunties” talk about the past. Once she accepts, however, she begins to learn more about her mother’s past and about the twin daughters her mother left in China. She also learns about her aunties’ lives and about their daughters.

The aunties describe their childhood experience in China and their journey to the United States. An-mei Hsu recalls how her mother was mistreated by her husband’s family after his death, and how she was disowned by Popo, her mother, for marrying Wu Tsing, who already had a wife and two concubines. When Popo became very sick, An-mei’s mother nevertheless returned home to take care of her. An-mei later learned from a servant, Yan Chang, that her mother had been raped by Wu Tsing and tricked into the marriage, and that she was physically abused and emotionally tortured by Wu Tsing’s wife and concubines.

Lindo Jong was a child bride. Her husband, Tyan-yu, was several years younger than she and even more immature. When Huang Taitai, Tyan-yu’s mother, became angry with Lindo for not bearing the family a son, Lindo told her that from a meeting she had with the ghosts of the family’s ancestors she was warned to leave the family to prevent calamity from descending on them. That trick enabled Lindo to leave Huang Taitai’s house without disgracing her own family. The money Huang Taitai gave her was enough for her to go to America.

Ying-ying St. Clair was born to a well-to-do family, and she was brought up with strict rules about how to behave properly. Both her mother and Amah, the maid, believe that a “girl can never ask, only listen”; while a “boy can run and chase dragonflies, because that is his nature . . . a girl should stand still.” In the legendary figure Chang-o, the Moon Lady, Ying-ying finds a companion and someone she can...

(The entire section is 875 words.)