The Joy Luck Club
Visions of America Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
Saint took me to America, where I lived in houses smaller than the one in the country. I wore large American clothes. I did servant’s tasks. I learned the Western ways. I tried to speak with a thick tongue. I raised a daughter, watching her from another shore. I accepted her American ways.
With all these things, I did not care. I had no spirit. (IV.2.75)
Despite Clifford St. Clair thinking that he was saving Ying-ying by bringing her to America, Ying-ying doesn’t have an extremely positive opinion of the Land of Opportunity. In some ways, her life in China was better – she had a larger house, didn’t do "servant’s tasks, and would have been able to better relate to her daughter there.
I taught her how American circumstances work. If you are born poor here, it’s no lasting shame. You are first in line for a scholarship. If the roof crashes on your head, no need to cry over this bad luck. You can sue anybody, make the landlord fix it. You do not have to sit like a Buddha under a tree letting pigeons drop their dirty business on your head. You can buy an umbrella. Or go inside a Catholic church. In America, nobody says you have to keep the circumstances somebody else gives you.
She learned these things, but I couldn’t teach her about Chinese character. How to obey your parents and listen to your mother’s mind. How not to show your own thoughts, to put your feelings behind your face so you can take advantage of hidden opportunities. Why easy things are not worth pursuing. How to know your own worth and polish it, never flashing it around like a cheap ring. Why Chinese thinking is best. (IV.3.8)
Lindo understands America as a land of opportunity and possibility, but she’s sad that "Chinese character" didn’t stick to her daughter, because she believes that Chinese character is best. Did Lindo attempt the impossible by trying to give her children "American circumstances and Chinese character"?
Americans don’t really look at one another when talking. They talk to their reflections. They look at others or themselves only when they think nobody is watching. So they never see how they really look. They see themselves smiling without their mouths open, or turned to the side where they cannot see their faults. (IV.3.18)
According to Lindo, American’s are really bad at seeing themselves for who they are. They don’t look other people in the eye so can’t see themselves as reflected by others. They also don’t even see their true selves in the mirror, because they are too busy posing at their most attractive angle, unwilling to see their faults.