The Joy Luck Club
How we cite our quotes:
At home, my mother looked at everything around her with empty eyes. My father would come home from work, patting my head, saying, "How’s my big girl, but always looking past me, toward my mother. I had such fears inside, not in my head but in my stomach. I could no longer see what was so scary, but I could feel it. I could feel every little movement in our silent house. And at night, I could feel the crashing loud fights on the other side of my bedroom wall, this girl being beaten to death. In bed, with the blanket edge lying across my neck, I used to wonder which was worse, our side or theirs? And after thinking about this for a while, after feeling sorry for myself, it comforted me somewhat to think that this girl next door had a more unhappy life." (II.2.81)
The juxtaposition of one silent family next to a noisy family allows Lena to speculate that her life could be much worse.
I lay down on my bed waiting to hear the screams and the shouts. And late at night I was still awake when I heard the loud voices next door. Mrs. Sorci was shouting and crying, You stupida girl. You almost gave me a heart attack. And Teresa was yelling back, I coulda been killed. I almost fell and broke my neck. And then I heard them laughing and crying, crying and laughing, shouting with love. (II.2.99)
The Sorcis’ love for each other manifests itself very differently than in the St. Clair household. This leaves Lena in doubt about her own family. She had always assumed that Teresa’s life was awful, and used it as proof that he own life wasn’t so bad. Now Lena realizes that the opposite might be true.
I saw a girl complaining that the pain of not being seen was unbearable. I saw the mother lying in bed in her long flowing robes. Then the girl pulled out a sharp sword and told her mother, "Then you must die the death of a thousand cuts. It is the only way to save you." The mother accepted this and closed her eyes. The sword came down and sliced back and forth, up and down, whish! whish! whish! And the mother screamed and shouted, cried out in terror and pain. But when she opened her eyes, she saw no blood, no shredded flesh.
The girl said, "Do you see now?"
The mother nodded: "Now I have perfect understanding. I have already experienced the worst. After this, there is no worst possible thing." (II.2.102)
This passage relates to Ying-ying’s passage about piercing her daughter’s hide, in that both passages are about experiencing pain in order to be saved. Lena dreams of making her mother go through the worst possible thing in order for her to no longer live in fear.