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The Joy Luck Club

The Joy Luck Club


by Amy Tan

Ying-ying St. Clair Timeline and Summary

  • In 1918, when Ying-ying was four, she awoke to many preparations for the Moon Festival, i.e., she is dressed in pretty clothes.
  • Relatives from all over arrive to celebrate the Moon Festival.
  • They have rented a boat on Tai Lake, and Ying-ying’s nanny promises that she will meet the Moon Lady.
  • Throughout the morning, Ying-ying is very impatient to get to the boat.
  • Finally the family is brought to the lake by a team of rickshaws.
  • Ying-ying has fun exploring the boat.
  • She watches boys using a bird to catch fish.
  • She watches an old woman gut and clean the fish.
  • Ying-ying’s new clothes are completely soiled. Her nanny finds her, scolds her, and removes all her clothes.
  • Ying-ying continues standing in the back of the boat, waiting for her mother to come scold her.
  • No one comes, and when the fireworks go off, Ying-ying falls into the lake.
  • She is caught by a fishing boat.
  • They ask her to point to her boat, and she mistakenly points to a boat where the little girl is safe.
  • Ying-ying feels lost forever.
  • Her rescuers drop her off on shore.
  • Ying-ying forgets her troubles when she watches a play about the Moon Lady.
  • She is utterly entranced by the Moon Lady’s tragic tale; she sobs at the end of the play, drawing a connection between her own loss and the Moon Lady’s loss of the world.
  • Ying-ying runs to tell the Moon Lady her secret wish, but as she runs closer and closer, the beautiful Moon Lady turns into an ugly figure.
  • As Ying-ying declares her wish, she realizes that the Moon Lady is a man.
  • In the present day, Ying-ying has forgotten both her secret wish and her eventual return to her family.
  • As Ying-ying ages, she begins to remember how she lost herself.
  • Her secret wish to the Moon Lady was that she be found.
  • Ying-ying comes to America via Angel Island. From the picture, she looks scared, waiting for something to happen.
  • Ying-ying’s husband, an American named Clifford, gave his wife a new name and birth date on her papers.
  • Her family moves from Oakland to the North Beach neighborhood in San Francisco, where their apartment was on a very steep hill.
  • Ying-ying is unhappy in this new apartment, muttering about things not being balanced, and spends time constantly rearranging the furniture and appliances.
  • Clifford figures it to be "nesting instincts," because Ying-ying is expecting a baby.
  • Ying-ying’s baby boy is stillborn, which she knew would happen but did nothing to prevent.
  • In the present day, Ying-ying is in her adult daughter’s guest bedroom, and she sees her daughter’s house as ready to break into pieces.
  • Ying-ying decides that the only way to save her daughter is to tell her about the past.
  • We flash back to Ying-ying as a pretty young girl in Wushi, China.
  • Ying-ying’s family is immensely wealthy, and she is stubborn and wild and independent.
  • When she is sixteen, she meets the man she knows she will later marry.
  • Six months later, she is married to this very bad man.
  • Ying-ying comes to love her husband, and try to please him.
  • She conceives a son.
  • Meanwhile, her husband is out womanizing. He finally leaves her for some opera singer.
  • In anger and hate, Ying-ying aborts her child.
  • Back in the present, Ying-ying begins to speak of her daughter, saying that her daughter sees only a small old lady instead of a dangerous tiger lady. (Ying-ying was born in the year of the tiger.)
  • Back in the flashback, Ying-ying lives with relatives in the countryside for ten years after her husband leaves her.
  • Then she decided to work as a shopgirl in Shanghai.
  • While working, she met Clifford St. Clair, who she knew she would one day marry.
  • St. Clair courted her for four years, and after Ying-ying received word of her husband’s death, she consented to marry St. Clair.
  • Upon hearing of her husband’s death, however, Ying-ying lost her spirit and became a ghost.
  • The flashback ends.
  • Now Ying-ying wants to give her spirit to her daughter so her daughter doesn’t become a ghost as well.