Study Guide

The Joy Luck Club Part 1, Chapter 2

By Amy Tan

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Part 1, Chapter 2

  • An-mei tells the story of her youth as a child in her uncle’s house, where she lived with her uncle, auntie, grandmother (Popo), and little brother.
  • Now we get a flashback to when An-mei is a little girl. Popo tells An-mei that her mother is a ghost, meaning that An-mei is forbidden to talk about her mother.
  • Still in flashback mode, the story jumps to 1923, when An-mei is nine years old and her grandmother is very ill.
  • Popo tells An-mei never to say her mother’s name, because that would be a disgrace to An-mei’s dead father. Clearly, An-mei’s mom has done something bad.
  • An-mei only knows her dad from a scary, stiff painting of him that she sees on the wall.
  • One day when An-mei’s short-tempered aunt is mad, she yells at An-mei about her mother’s disgrace. This is how An-mei learns that her mother is now the concubine of a rich man (who already has a wife and two other concubines).
  • An-mei’s relatives look down on her mother, viewing her as a traitor to An-mei’s dead father, a woman with no honor who brings shame to the family.
  • An-mei begins to imagine her mother as a carefree woman who laughingly abandoned her family and her honor. This image of her mother disappoints her.
  • One day a woman arrives to take care of Popo. An-mei immediately knows it's her mother.
  • An-mei’s mother brushes her daughter’s hair, whispering, "You know me." And then she rubs the scar on her daughter’s neck, leading An-mei into a memory of when she was four years old and her mom tried to take her away from her grandmother.
  • In the memory, her mother, uncle, aunt, and Popo are fighting. They are criticizing An-mei’s mother, saying she has no honor and is only a lowly concubine. They won’t let her have her children.
  • In the scuffle, a large pot of boiling soup falls on four-year-old An-mei, burning her neck.
  • Popo nurses An-mei back to health and the scar heals.
  • End memory – but back to An-mei as a nine-year-old girl.
  • Popo gets steadily sicker.
  • An-mei’s mother cooks up a soup and then cuts a piece of flesh from her own arm.
  • Yep—you read that right: she cuts a piece of flesh from her own arm.
  • She adds it to the soup, along with herbs and medicines. The soup is a last-ditch effort to save Popo.
  • The ancient remedy fails to work, but An-mei learns to love her mother by seeing what a faithful daughter her mother is to Popo.

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