The Joy Luck Club
Language and Communication Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
Back home, I thought about what she said. And it was true. Lately I had been feeling hulihudu. And everything around me seemed to be heimongmong. These were words I had never thought about in English terms. I suppose the closest in meaning would be "confused" and "dark fog."
But really, the words mean much more than that. Maybe they can’t be easily translated because they refer to a sensation that only Chinese people have, as if you were falling headfirst through Old Mr. Chou’s door, then trying to find your way back. (III.3.34)
Right now, we’re feeling a communication gap with Rose because the inadequacy of translation. Rose can’t explain to the reader the precise feelings of hulihudu and heimongmong, speculating that maybe only Chinese people can feel such things.
How can she talk to people in China with these words? Pee-pee, choo-choo train, eat, close light sleep. How can she think she can blend in? Only her skin and her hair are Chinese. Inside – she is all American-made. (IV.3.6)
Lindo cites language barriers as one of the reasons no one in China would ever mistake Waverly for being Chinese.
"How does she want it?" asked Mr. Rory. He thinks I do not understand English. He is floating his fingers through my hair. He is showing how his magic can make my hair thicker and longer.
"Ma, how do you want it?" Why does my daughter think she is translating English for me? Before I can even speak, she explains my thoughts: "She wants a soft wave. We probably shouldn’t cut it too short. Otherwise it’ll be too tight for the wedding. She doesn’t want it to look kinky or weird." (IV.3.19)
Waverly assumes a position of importance by "translating" her mother’s opinions.