Study Guide

Lindo Jong in The Joy Luck Club

By Amy Tan

Lindo Jong

Paint With All The Colors of The Wind

If we asked you to characterize the wind, we bet you'd come up with adjectives like "flighty," "capricious," or "annoying." (Or, if you're from L.A., you might think of it as having the ability to drive people insane.)

But for Lindo, the wind is the embodiment of stealthy, invisible strength.

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.3.45)

So: how do you describe a woman who self-identifies as "like the wind"? In a word: tricky. (And we mean that as a huge compliment.)

Lindo's primary character trait might just be craftiness. She managed to free herself honorably (and deviously) from a horrible marriage, staying true to both herself and her parents’ wishes. She also applied her cunning to ensure a second marriage, using a fortune cookie with a perfectly selected fortune to secure her man and get him to pop the question.

Part of Lindo’s personality is a certain selfishness, a demand for the best, and her clever mind understands how to balance that desire with, say, her parents’ promises, her own notion of respect for her elders, and her own inner voice.

Despite being raised in a relatively repressive situation—being forced into an awful marriage and basically treated as her mother-in-law’s personal slave—Lindo has a strong sense of self.

For her entire life Lindo holds on to the metaphor of the wind’s invisible strength and uses it as a way to know her value, and keep her plans and intentions hidden while waiting for the right moment to strike. This quality of Lindo allows her to be tricky and take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves.

All of Lindo’s characteristics are in line with her being born in the year of the horse and as member of the Sun clan. The horse is a strong, majestic hard worker. The Sun clan (her maiden name is Sun) is known for its "smart people, very strong, tricky, and famous for winning wars."

Hey: that sounds like Lindo in a nutshell.

Paging Harvey Dent

Lindo’s greatest wish for her daughter was that Waverly would have American circumstances and Chinese character:

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)

However, Lindo doesn’t think she achieved this goal, it might not be something that any mother can give their children.

Lindo's pleased that Waverly has had American opportunities, and doesn’t have to be satisfied with the life she was born into. But Waverly lacks Chinese character; Waverly doesn’t really respect her mother, she rarely listens to Lindo, and Lindo even thinks Waverly is ashamed of her.

Lindo also thinks that Waverly doesn’t know the meaning of a promise...which is a serious criticism coming from a woman who stuck it out in a bad marriage (before finding a crafty way out) in order to fulfill a promise to her parents.

But Lindo also sees many similarities between herself and her daughter. The two of them have similar faces—all the way down to their crooked noses—and similar fortunes. Lindo also comes to realize that while her daughter is definitely not Chinese, she herself is no longer completely Chinese either.

Lindo, just like her daughter, is two-faced (in a good way, not a creepy Batman villain way). She's both Chinese and American.