The Joy Luck Club
How we cite our quotes:
It started to rain again, just a light rain. The people from downstairs called up to me once again to hurry. And my thoughts became more urgent, more strange.
I asked myself, what is true about a person? Would I change in the same way the river changes color but still be the same person? And then I saw the curtains blowing wildly, and outside rain was falling harder, causing everyone to scurry and shout. I smiled. And then I realized it was the first time I could see the power of the wind. I couldn’t see the wind itself, but I could see it carried the water that filled the rivers and shaped the countryside. It caused men to yelp and dance.
I wiped my eyes and looked in the mirror. I was surprised at what I saw. I had on a beautiful red dress, but what I saw was even more valuable. I was strong. I was pure. I had genuine thoughts inside that no one could see, that no one could ever take away from me. I was like the wind.
I threw my head back and smiled proudly to myself. And then I draped the large embroidered red scarf over my face and covered these thoughts up. But underneath the scarf I still knew who I was. I made a promise to myself: I would always remember my parents’ wishes, but I would never forget myself. (I.3.45)
The night of her wedding, Lindo "discovers herself," so to speak. She decides that she doesn’t need to give up her inner identity, even though her new family has definitely been trying hard to make her give up her own sense of self. Lindo decides that she has an unchanging core and an invisible inner strength, which cannot be taken from her even though it may be hidden beneath a veil of seeming obedience and passivity.
All these years I kept my true nature hidden, running along like a small shadow so nobody could catch me. And because I moved so secretly now my daughter does not see me. She sees a list of things to buy, her checkbook out of balance, her ashtray sitting crooked on a straight table. (I.4.2)
Ying-ying claims that she has always kept her true nature hidden "like a shadow" – we will see what this means in our next quote.
Standing perfectly still like that, I discovered my shadow. At first it was just a dark spot on the bamboo mats that covered the courtyard bricks. It had short legs and long arms, a dark coiled braid just like mine. When I shook my head, it shook its head. We flapped our arms. We raised one leg. I turned to walk away and it followed me. I lifted the bamboo mat to see if I could peel off my shadow, but it was under the mat, on the brick. I shrieked with delight at my shadow’s own cleverness. I ran to the shade under the tree, watching my shadow chase me. It disappeared. I loved my shadow, this dark side of me that had my same restless nature. (I.4.53)
Ying-ying’s shadow is restless, clever, and adventurous – just like her, she says. This darker shadow side of Ying-ying, we later learn, is part of her identity as a Tiger – the two tones of the tiger stripes represent the golden nature and the dark, cunning nature.