Study Guide

The Joy Luck Club Part 4, Chapter 4

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Part 4, Chapter 4

  • Jing-mei enters China and begins feeling Chinese.
  • She recalls how in high school, she used to think that her Chinese-ness was only skin-deep. Turns out she was wrong, just like her mom said.
  • Jing-mei and her father, Canning, are on a train going to visit Canning’s aunt, who he hasn’t seen for about sixty years. Afterwards, they’ll go and meet Suyuan’s twin daughters in Shanghai.
  • Canning is so excited – either about seeing his aunt or just being in China – that Jing-mei compares him to a little boy.
  • On the train ride, both Jing-mei and her father are emotional – they have tears standing in their eyes as they look out the window. It’s almost like they’ve returned to the place they’ve been nostalgic for.
  • Jing-mei recaps the discovery of her half-sisters, so we flashback to this experience.
  • Some friend or relative of Suyuan’s locates the twin girls.
  • The twins send a letter to Jing-mei’s mother, telling her about their lives.
  • Because Suyuan is dead, Jing-mei’s father opens the letter and asks the ladies form the Joy Luck Club to write back.
  • The ladies from the Joy Luck Club are sad that Suyuan died without fulfilling her dream of seeing her twin daughters. They write back to the girls, posing as Suyuan, and saying that her family hopes to meet them in China.
  • Jing-mei didn’t learn about her sisters until after the reply letter is sent. Auntie An-mei insists that Jing-mei can’t tell the girls in a letter that their mother is dead – she must do it in person.
  • For obvious reasons, Jing-mei feels a lot of anxiety. She has to be the one to tell her sisters the bad news.
  • Finally, Jing-mei begs Auntie Lindo to write the twins another letter, explaining that their mother has died. Lindo refuses until Jing-mei admits that she’s afraid the twins will hate her, thinking that she didn’t care enough about her mom to keep her alive and well.
  • Eventually, Lindo writes the letter and gives it to Jing-mei.
  • The flashback ends.
  • Jing-mei and her father arrive in Guangzhou, and Jing-mei knows she stands out. She’s much taller than everyone but the tourists.
  • As Jing-mei is trying to get a taxi, a little old lady wanders up saying, "Syau Yen." Canning recognizes the old lady as his aunt. She’s calling him "Little Wild Goose." It’s a joyful reunion and both of they cry and laugh.
  • Canning and Jing-mei are introduced to the rest of the aunt’s family and Jing-mei feels overwhelmed by the rapidly spoken Mandarin and Cantonese.
  • Jing-mei’s Mandarin is bad, but her Cantonese is worse – she learned from friends only how to cuss and say some phrases about food, neither of which will help her much in the current situation.
  • They arrive at a sumptuous hotel, which, despite its grandeur, is very affordable (only thirty-five bucks a night).
  • The aunt’s family seems wowed by the hotel, and are excited to hang out there with Canning and Jing-mei.
  • For dinner the family wants to have room service and eat American food: hamburgers, French fries, and apple pie.
  • Jing-mei wakes up in the middle of the night to hear Canning telling his aunt about Suyuan.
  • He tells his aunt that he studied at Yenching University and afterwards worked in Chungking. That’s where he met Suyuan.
  • Together, Canning and Suyuan went to Suyuan’s mother’s house, only to find it destroyed by the Japanese. Her family had all died.
  • Eventually they made it to San Francisco, but throughout all the years of their marriage, Suyuan never told her husband that she was looking for her twin daughters.
  • Canning tells his aunt about how Suyuan lost her daughters while fleeing Kweilin.
  • Canning’s aunt falls asleep and Jing-mei starts asking her father questions about the meaning of names.
  • The twin sister’s names mean "Spring Rain" and "Spring Flower." Suyuan means "Long-Cherished Wish." But written a different way, Suyuan can mean "Long-Held Grudge."
  • Jing-mei wants to know what her name means. Canning says that "Jing" means the quality essence of something and "mei" means little sister. Jing-mei determines that he mother wanted Jing-mei be the essence of her older twin sisters.
  • Canning’s aunt wakes up again and wants to know why Suyuan abandoned the little girls. Canning tells her, and it’s like a flashback to Suyuan’s life.
  • Suyuan walks for several days carrying her twin daughters, trying to find a main road.
  • She has money and jewelry sewed into her dress with the thought that she can use it to barter for rides.
  • No such luck. Everyone is trying to get a ride.
  • Weak and convinced she is going to die soon, Suyuan leaves her babies on the side of the road, along with money, jewelry, family photos, and her home address so the babies might be returned to the family after the fighting dies down.
  • Suyuan is later saved by American missionaries – too late to save her babies.
  • When she arrives in Chungking, she learns that her husband has died.
  • In the hospital, she meets Canning. She is sick with dysentery, and muttering like a madwoman.
  • The flashback ends.
  • Then we enter into a different sort of flashback, following the fate of the twin girls, as told in the letter they sent to Suyuan (which Canning read).
  • The girls are found by an old peasant woman, Mei Ching, and her husband, Mei Han, who live in a cave to hide from the Japanese.
  • The couple raises the girls well, and after Mei Han dies, Mei Ching decides to look for the girls’ true family. She loves the girls, but can see from the photos Suyuan left with them, that they come from a wealthy family, where they can have a better life.
  • Mei Ching brings the girls to the address that was left with them, but the house has been destroyed.
  • The flashback into the twin girls’ lives ends.
  • Canning says that he and Suyuan toured China, visiting different cities; Suyuan was always on the lookout for her girls.
  • From America, Suyuan wrote to many of her old classmates, asking them to look for her twin girls.
  • About a year ago, Suyuan asked Canning if they could go back to China. He thought she just wanted to be a tourist, so he said, "it’s too late," meaning they are too old for the traveling. Canning now realizes she probably thought he meant it was too late because the twin girls were dead.
  • Canning thinks that this horrible idea is what killed Suyuan.
  • Canning says that one day, one of Suyuan’s classmates saw twin sisters, and approached them. The lost were found.
  • Jing-mei and Canning’s visit with the aunt ends. They are now heading to Shanghai to meet the twins.
  • Jing-mei is incredibly nervous.
  • As Jing-mei gets off the plane to Shanghai, the twins spot her. They instantly run up to each other, hug, and cry. The meeting isn’t at all awkward or sad like Jing-mei had feared it would be.
  • Canning snaps a Polaroid of the three women together. They eagerly watch as the picture appears. Between the three of them, they look like Suyuan.
  • Finally, Suyuan’s long-cherished wish has been fulfilled.

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