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The Joy Luck Club

The Joy Luck Club

by Amy Tan

Analysis: Plot Analysis

Most good stories start with a fundamental list of ingredients: the initial situation, conflict, complication, climax, suspense, denouement, and conclusion. Great writers sometimes shake up the recipe and add some spice.

The book a whole doesn’t follow the classic plot structure, largely because the book is designed as a collection of interwoven short stories. Each of the storylines has tension and a conclusion, but because the stories operate in no small part through flashbacks, the classic plot analysis does not work well in describing the arc of The Joy Luck Club as a whole. However, Jing-mei’s story, which is the most complete and holds together the rest of the book, can be analyzed.

Initial Situation

Jing-mei has some big shoes to fill.

Jing-mei’s mother has just died and Jing-mei needs to fill her mom’s spot in the Joy Luck Club. She’s feeling pretty inadequate for the job, but heads over to the Hsus’ house for the club meeting.

Conflict

The task of completing her mom’s biggest wish falls on Jing-mei’s shoulders.

Suyuan’s most cherished wish was that she could be reunited with her long-lost twin daughters, but she dies before she can fulfill her dream. However, the lost twin daughters have been located and now it’s up to Jing-mei to go to China, meet her sisters, and them about their mother. Oh yeah, she also has to break the news to the twins that their mom is dead.

Complication

Jing-mei’s feels like she doesn’t know her mother.

Jing-mei’s doesn’t think that she’s capable of telling her twin sisters about their mother because Jing-mei isn’t sure she knew their mom herself.

Climax

Jing-mei goes to China to meet her sisters.

In China, Jing-mei realizes she’s more Chinese (and more like her mother) than she thought, so she’s on the path to learning about her own identity while also learning about her mother. In China, one of the things that Jing-mei learns is the meaning of her own name, her sisters’ names, and her mom’s name. All this new information leads to Jing-mei understand that being reunited with her daughters was Suyuan’s "long-cherished wish."

Suspense

How will the encounter between Jing-mei and her twin sisters go?

Jing-mei is super stressed about the coming meeting with her sisters. She fears it will be like a funeral.

Denouement

The sisters hug and cry.

So it turns out that the encounter isn’t awkward at all. It’s more like a reunion than a funeral. The three sisters don’t even say anything, they just start hugging each other, crying, and laughing.

Conclusion

Suyuan’s long-cherished wish has been fulfilled.

The girls have a picture taken of them. Between the three women, they look like their mother. In that sense, by living on through her daughters, Suyuan is reunited with her twin girls when all three daughters meet together at last.

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