On her journey she cooed to the swan: "In America I will have a daughter just like me. But over there nobody will say her worth is measured by the loudness of her husband’s belch. Over there nobody will look down on her, because I will make her speak only perfect American English." (I.Prologue.2)
The woman imagines a future in America where her daughter will have a better life and will be judged by her personal abilities, and not valued based on her husband.
Part 1, Chapter 1
"So we decided to hold parties and pretend each week had become the new year. Each week we could forget past wrongs done to us. We weren’t allowed to think a bad thought. We feasted, we laughed, we played games, lost and won, we told the best stories. And each week, we could hope to be lucky. That hope was our only joy. And that’s how we came to call our little parties Joy Luck." (I.1.26)
Although the weekly gathering is called Joy Luck, it’s more about hope than about joy or luck.
And then it occurs to me. They are frightened. In me, they see their own daughters, just as ignorant, just as unmindful of all the truths and hopes they have brought to America. They see daughters who grow impatient when their mothers talk in Chinese, who think they are stupid when they explain things in fractured English. They see that joy and luck do not mean the same to their daughters, that to these closed American-born minds "joy luck" is not a word, it does not exist. They see daughters who will bear grandchildren born without any connecting hope passed from generation to generation. (I.144)
The mothers become worried when they imagine a future in which their sacrifices, their hope, and their stories are not able to be passed on.
Part 1, Chapter 3
I was not thinking when my legs lifted me up and my feet ran me across the courtyard to the yellow-lit room. But I was hoping – I was praying to Buddha, the goddess of mercy, and the full moon – to make that candle go out. It fluttered a little and the flame bent down low, but still both ends burned strong. My throat filled with so much hope that it finally burst and blew out my husband’s end of the candle. (I.3.59)
Lindo has a vision for her own future, and uses proactive action to move herself in that direction.
Part 2, Chapter 3
Rose Hsu Jordan
I know now that I will never find a way to save my marriage. My mother tells me, though, that I should still try.
"What’s the point?" I say. "There’s no hope. There’s no reason to keep trying."
"Because you must," she says. "This is not hope. Not reason. This is your fate. This is your life, what you must do." (II.3.97)
For An-mei, some things in life are simply "musts" – when your own future is on the line, you must act, even in the absence of hope.
Part 2, Chapter 4
Jing-mei (June) Woo
And after seeing my mother’s disappointed face once again, something inside of me began to die. I hated the tests, the raised hopes and the failed expectations. (II.4.17)
For Jing-mei, hopes can only fail so many times before it simply becomes too much.
America was where all my mother’s hopes lay. She had come here in 1949 after losing everything in China: her mother and father, her family home, her first husband, and two daughters, twin baby girls. But she never looked back with regret. There were so many ways for things to get better. (II.4.3)
For Suyuan, America is the land of hope, a place to create a new and better future.
Part 4, Chapter 4
Jing-mei (June) Woo
I think about this. My mother’s long-cherished wish. Me, the younger sister who was supposed to be the essence of the others. I feed myself with the old grief, wondering how disappointed my mother must have been. (IV.4.95)