The Joy Luck CLub Group 4:Ying-Ying and Lena St. CLair
The Moon Lady
The Moon Lady• Summary:• Set in 1918 when Ying-Ying St. Claire was four, her amah, or nanny, informs her she is now old enough to go to the Moon Festival. Her Amah dresses her in ﬁne silk clothes and pulls Ying-Ying’s hair up into a tight, braided bun with a bundle of silk strands hanging down from it. The nanny explains to her that at the festival she will be allowed to ask the Moon Lady to grant one secret wish that she could otherwise not ask for (since that would be selﬁsh desire). Later, everyone is sitting around the table leisurely eating their breakfast. Becoming bored, Ying-Ying and her two half-sisters go out to play in the garden. They begin to chase a dragonﬂy, but her amah comes out and reprimands Ying-Ying for she has rumpled her special clothes. Amah also told her that girls must stay still for the dragonﬂy will no longer see her and come near, whereas a boy can go about chasing it because it’s in a boy’s nature to do so. Following the advice, she remains still, but her shadow soon catches her attention and she begins to run around as the shadow chases her. Afterwards, it is time for the family to leave for the boat they rented to go across the immense lake to the festival. Once on the boat, the three sisters went exploring until everyone laid down for naptime. Awaking early and seeing everyone still asleep, Ying-Ying ﬁnds her way toward the back of the boat and begins watching the servants do their chores. She watches two young boys using a pet bird to catch ﬁsh. Next, she watches a woman carve up the ﬁsh and prepare them for cooking. Realizing some of the blood got on her clothes, she dipped her hands into the blood and smeared it on the front of her shirt in hopes that her amah wouldn’t be able to see the blood droplets if all of her clothes became the same color. However, her amah did notice and took the soiled clothes off her. While sitting on the boat’s edge in her under clothes, she accidently slips into the water, unnoticed, while everyone else was watching the ﬁreworks as the Moon Lady appeared in the sky. Caught in a ﬁshing net, she was saved from drowning and the Five Evils. The ﬁshermen originally mistook her for a beggar girl, but convinced that she wasn’t by her pale, soft skin and petite feet, they set her ashore ﬁguring that if she truly had a family they would search for her there. Ying-Ying watched as the moon lady skit was performed. Afterwards, she went up to the Moon Lady and revealed her secret wish and as she was telling the moon lady this, the moon lady became a man. Reﬂecting back on this memory years later, Ying-Ying remembers this and how “the same innocence, trust, and restlessness, the wonder, fear, and loneliness. How [she] lost [herself] (83).” was repeated many times in her life. She also remembers what she had wished for. She had wished to be found.
The Moon Lady
The Moon Lady• Title Signiﬁcance:• The chapter title, “The Moon Lady”, is a reﬂection on how Ying-Ying’s wish to be found is still relevant to her present life as much as it was back at that fateful day at the Moon Lady festival.
The Voice from the Wall
The Voice from the Wall• Summary:• Lena begins the chapter by remembering how her mother had told her of how her great-grandfather had sentenced a beggar to die the death of a thousand cuts and how this man either came back from the dead to kill her great-grandfather or her great-grandfather died from the ﬂu. She remembers coming up with vivid, what-if scenarios on the death of this beggar. She had asked her mother how this poor man had really died, but her mom had only responded with a grievance of how Americans only have morbid thoughts. Lena however believed that it was better to know the worst possible outcome, so that one could know how to avoid it. She remembers how her mother would push back dark secrets until they had consumed her. Lena then goes on to recall a memory of an infamous basement and the story her mom told her of a mysterious man that would impregnate her with ﬁve children and would eat them all in a six-course meal if she went down. From then on she would begin to see terrible things that others could not and became superstitious. she reﬂects on how she would, as a little girl, try and make her eyes as round as she could, but this caused her to have a scared look, similar to her mother’s expression when she was released from Angel Island Immigration Station after having been held up for three weeks there because of paperwork. Her father had believed he was giving her mother a fresh start by changing her name from Gu Ying-ying to Betty St. Claire and changing her birth year from Tiger to Dragon. She goes on to describe her mother often wearing this scared look, until she could no longer keep her eyes open. She explains how her father didn’t fully understand her mother and how her mother also didn’t fully understand American ways. Soon after moving to a new house on a steep hill, her mother shrivels up with horror as a drunken Asian man came towards her mistaking her to be another woman until a few men stepped in to pull him away while laughing at the drunken fool. Her mother, soon after, begins to rearrange the house constantly trying to get the feng shui just right for the birth of her son-to-be. When the new crib is moved into Lena’s room, her bed gets pushed against a thin wall. Every night before she falls asleep, she hears the ﬁghting of a mother and daughter next door. Later, the son is found to be a miscarriage for he comes out of his mother’s womb eyes open with no brain. Her mother begins to fade away after the traumatic experience. One night their doorbell rings and the girl from next door is invited in. She heads for Lena’s room to get to the ﬁre escape so she can climb back into her own room after her mother kicked her out of their apartment. . That night, Lena hers the mother and daughter making up and realizes that she wants to feel that kind of love from her own mother who is still overwhelmed by her private evils. The chapter ends with Lena imagining a girl telling her mother that the only way for her to be saved is if she dies the death of a thousand cuts and afterwards the mother realizes the truth in that while the girl pulls her back through the wall.
The Voice from the Wall
The Voice from the Wall• Title Signiﬁcance:• The Voice from the Wall (referring to the mother/ daughter duo next door) causes Lena to realize that her mother needs to be saved in order for her to live again.
Rice Husband• Summary:• Lena believes her mother can, to an extent, predict what will happen. She was able to foresee the death of her husband, among many other things, when Mr. St. Claire had given her a plant whose roots were damaged which caused it to not be able to absorb water making it to die, just like her husband’s clogged arteries caused him to die. Lena and her husband, Harold, drive back from picking up Ying-Ying for her week stay with them. During the car ride Lena thinks of all the bickering that has been occurring between her and Harold that needs to be kept from her mom. Back in San Francisco when Lena was still young, her mother would tell her she needed to ﬁnish all of the gains of rice left in her bowl otherwise she would marry a bad man. The young Lena immediately thought that this was referring to Arnold down the street, who would shoot rubber bands at her legs when she walked down the street and who would run over her doll with his bike. Thinking this, she purposefully stopped eating and became very thin. Five years of poor eating habits later, Lena found out that Arnold had died. She blamed herself for causing his death. To make herself feel better, she took a half-gallon of strawberry ice- cream out to the ﬁre escape and ate it all only to puke it back up into the container later. The chapter skips forward in Lena’s life to the courtship between her husband and herself. They had met at an architectural ﬁrm. After a while Lena encouraged Harold to start up his own ﬁrm specializing in themed restaurants. In this new ﬁrm Lena held a lower position than Harold for he didn’t want his employees to think there was any favoritism. This equality was part of the foundation in their dating. Harold and Lena would always split the check for meals evenly down to the last penny and that continued over into their marriage. Soon though, Lena realizes that Harold doesn’t give her the amount of affection she needs. Moving back to the present, Ying-Ying disapproves of the house’s slick, modern interior. This clean design messes up the feng shui of the house and she sees bad things in the future as the outcome of it. Later that night, after dinner, Harold learns of Lena’s disgust for ice-cream from Ying-Ying, which shocks Harold, for all this time he has thought she was watching her weight. Later, Lena tells Harold that they need to change things in their relationship. Harold assumes it has to do with the splitting of everything down the center, but Lena corrects him by suggesting they need to ﬁnd out what their marriage is really based on. The chapter ends with Lena going to check on her mother after Harold and her hear crash from the guest bedroom.
Rice Husband• Title Signiﬁcance:• The Rice Husband title is relevant to the chapter’s main idea in that, Lena had married the wrong man; the one Ying-Ying had foretold her daughter she would marry.
Waiting Between the Trees
Waiting Between the Trees• Summary:• This chapter is from Ying-Ying’s viewpoint, starting at her being shown the guest bedroom at her daughter’s house. Ying-Ying remembers that in China the guest bedroom was the largest, nicest bedroom in the house, the one that Lena and Harold share. She takes notice of how her daughter’s eyes are not reﬂective. Yet as she thinks this, she concludes that her daughter and her shared the same body at one point, share the same Tiger mind, that since she was born she has been drifting away never able to return again. She resolves that she needs to ﬁnd a way to tell Lena of her past so that she may save Lena. Ying-Ying goes on to think about the feng shui of the room and how dark it portrays the future. Her thoughts reﬂect back to when she was a child in Wushi. She recalls she was wild and hard headed, how she was vain and wasteful, and how she took her family’s riches for granted. Her mother told her that she was “like the lady ghosts at the bottom of the lake”(243); the ladies who purposefully drowned themselves because their shame was too great. Her mother predicted that she would bring great shame to their house. She describes her family’s home to be massive, having many rooms with many riches displayed. Ying-Ying recalls one evening where a drunken family friend asked her if she was still hungry. Pulling out a waterman, he sliced it open with a large knife saying kai gwa, or open the watermelon. Everyone around him laughed as he did so. “[She] did not understand until six months later when [she] was married to this man and he hissed drunkenly to [her] that he was ready to kai qwa”what the metaphorical meaning of that night was(245). She learned to love him however and became pregnant. LA bit later in the marriage, he left her while she was still pregnant, so she aborted her baby as her hatred of this man prevented her from having any desire to give him his ﬁrst born son. Afterwards she went to live with her cousin’s family that was indebted to her family. There she began to work in a shop where he meet Lena’s father. St. Claire and her married and Ying-Ying willingly gave up her chi, the spirit that caused her misery. He took her to America where she began a new life. Jumping back to the present, Ying-Ying begins to question whether she can tell her daughter that she loved her father. She considered her love to be that of a ghost, able to encircle Lena’s father but not able to touch. Now that he is dead however, they can love equally because they are both ghosts. She again resolves to tell her daughter everything no matter how much she ﬁghts against it. She predicts that when her daughter comes upstairs after the crash, she will still see nothing in the darkness, a metaphor for how her daughter doesn’t look beneath he surface of what is really in front of her.
Waiting Between the Trees
Waiting Between the Trees• Title Signiﬁcance:• The signiﬁcance of this chapter’s title, Waiting between the Trees, is foreshadowing Ying-Ying waiting for the right time to reveal everything to her daughter.
Ying Ying• Chinese woman born into wealth but brought up without much care and love from her mother. After a failed initial marriage and unwanted child she has developed a cynical view of the world and how it works. Even when she is brought to America and begins a family, she still believes that her daughter is destined for the same evil that ruined her life, and therefore tries to shelter her from anything she believes to be unbalanced or wrong.
Ying Ying• Chinese woman born into wealth but brought up without much care and love from her mother. After a failed initial marriage and unwanted child she has developed a cynical view of the world and how it works. Even when she is brought to America and begins a family, she still believes that her daughter is destined for the same evil that ruined her life, and therefore tries to shelter her from anything she believes to be unbalanced or wrong. Lena
Ying Ying• Chinese woman born into wealth but brought up without much care and love from her mother. After a failed initial marriage and unwanted child she has developed a cynical view of the world and how it works. Even when she is brought to America and begins a family, she still believes that her daughter is destined for the same evil that ruined her life, and therefore tries to shelter her from anything she believes to be unbalanced or wrong. Lena• Young woman who has grown up knowing of her mother’s view of the world and ability to predict when things are going to go wrong. As a child her mothers views and beliefs often show up in her own psyche, like when she purposefully does not eat her food so that a boy will die before becoming her future husband. She has a hard time deciding what she wants in her life, especially with regards to her marriage, a marriage that is based on equality and denounces dependence on either husband or wife.
Relationship• The relationship between the mother and daughter is very distant. The daughter is born in America and does not understand the culture of China where here mother was born which is a very large part of her identity, and the mother cannot understand the daughter because America is so different. Ying-Ying always felt that she has "watched her as though from another shore" alluding to the fact that her spirit still resides in China. While they both love each other, they do not really know each other as surely as if they spoke different languages.
Deﬁnitions• Pungent: sharpin taste; forceful and sharp• Rickshaw: two-wheeled passenger vehicle pulled by a person• Amorous: inclined to or expressing sexual love• Amah: baby’s nurse• Posterity: one’s descendants
Signiﬁcant Images• “Someone was killing. Someone was being killed. Screams and shouts, a mother had a sword above a girls head and was starting to slice her life away, ﬁrst a braid, then her scalp, an eyebrow, a toe, a thumb, the point of her cheeck, the slant of her nose, until there was nothing left, no sounds."- pg.110• "The only decoration is an odd-looking piece right next to the bed: an end table made out of a slab of unevenly cut marble and thin crisscrosses of black lacquer wood for the legs. My mother puts her handbag on the table and the cylindrical black vase on top starts to wobble. The freesias in the vase quiver."-pg.163• "Then she told me why a tiger is gold and black. It has two ways. The gold side leaps with its ﬁerce heart. The black side stands still with cunning, hiding its gold between trees, seeing and not being seen, waiting patiently for things to come."-pg.248
Themes• The Search for Our Identities: Ying-Ying says that she is a ghost of her former self; that she cannot love because it is only the love of a ghost. She says that her daughter will too become a ghost as she searches for herself.• Being Torn Between Two Cultures: Lena fights to free herself from the strict Chinese culture that her mother adheres to, but at the same time embraces it when she leaves food to prevent the marriage that she dreads may be destined to happen. At the same time, she enters a marriage of complete equality, unlike the obedience of a wife that is common in Chinese culture.