Mother of Jing-Mei "June" Woo. She starts the Joy Luck Club in Kweilin, China, and then in San Francisco. When the Japanese approach Kweilin, she is forced to flee and eventually abandon her twin infant daughters. She marries Canning Woo, immigrates to America, and raises Jing-mei. Only after her death from an aneurysm is it revealed that she spent her whole life trying to find her lost daughters. It is then up to Jing-mei to fulfill her "long-cherished wish" of reuniting with them in China.
Mother of Rose Hsu Jordan. As a young girl in China, she goes to live with her mother, who is a concubine to the rich merchant Wu Tsing. After witnessing her mother's suicide, she learns never to let others derive joy from her sorrow. As an adult, she believes in nengkan, the power to do anything one sets one's mind to. Her faith in her own powers is so strong that she can never quite admit that her dead son, Bing, will never return.
Mother of Waverly Jong. As a young girl, she was promised to a spoiled and unfeeling boy named Tyan-yu. When her family's land is ruined in a flood, she moves in with him and his cruel and overbearing mother, Huang Tai Tai. She devises a clever escape plan and immigrates to San Francisco, where she works in a fortune cookie factory and meets her husband, Tin Jong, and the other members of the Joy Luck Club.
Ying-ying St. Clair
Mother of Lena St. Clair. She grows up in a privileged family and is raised by her Amah. She believes in reading signs to determine the future and sees that Lena's marriage is doomed. She thinks her daughter's spirit is too weak and wants to instill some of her own "tiger spirit" or chi in her so that she will be strong enough to choose happiness over the comfort of routine.
Jing-mei "June" Woo
Daughter of Suyuan Wu. Her mother has recently died, and her father has asked her to take her mother's place in the Joy Luck Club. The ladies of the Joy Luck Club charge her with traveling to China to meet her long-lost sisters. Jing-mei feels inadequate for this mission, being afraid that she can never live up to her mother's expectations.
Rose Hsu Jordan
Daughter of An-mei Hsu. She is in the midst of divorcing Ted Jordan, with whom she has had a strained and unpassionate marriage. She has been denying her true wild, strong spirit in order to accommodate his meticulousness and pettiness. Rose has always been afraid of letting things happen without being able to stop them. This fear stems from her brother Bing's death at the age of four; he died on her watch, though she was not blamed.
Daughter of Lindo Jong. She is named after the street where she grew up, Waverly Place. As a child, she was pegged as a chess prodigy and became a local celebrity. She has a daughter, Shoshana, by her first marriage (to Marvin Chen). She lives with Rich Shields and is a tax attorney. Even as an adult, she is boastful and often tactless.
Lena St. Clair
Daughter of Ying-ying St. Clair. She is married to Harold Livotny, whom she encouraged to found his own architectural firm, Livotny & Associates. She works as an associate, earning seven times less than her husband. She has adapted to his ideas about how they should live, although this makes her unhappy.
Huang Tai Tai
Lindo Jong's first mother-in-law. She treats Lindo like a servant and blames her for not producing any grandchildren. She lets Lindo leave her household only because Lindo convinces her that her son, Tyan-yu, will die if he stays married to Lindo.
Lindo Jong's first husband, promised to her when they were both toddlers. He is spoiled and treats Lindo like a servant. He refuses to have sex with her, and because of this they have no children. Lindo thinks he is not interested in women because he never grew up, but there is also the slight implication that he is gay.
Ying-ying St. Clair's childhood nanny. She abandoned her baby son to be Ying-ying's nanny. She raised Ying-ying even though her mother was present, and tried to teach her how to be a proper lady.
Vincent and Winston Jong
Waverly Jong's older brothers. After Vincent receives a chess set as a Christmas present, Waverly is the one who rises to fame as a chess star. As she becomes more accomplished, Vincent and Winston are forced to make concessions such as doing her chores and sleeping in the living room so she can have her own room.
Rose Hsu Jordan's youngest brother. When he is four years old, he falls into the ocean and drowns on Rose's watch. Despite her best efforts, Rose's mother (An-mei) cannot recover his body. However, she never completely gives up hope of finding him. In the "Deaths" section of her Bible, she pencils his name in lightly, as though he may someday return and she may be able to erase it.
Jing-Mei Woo's piano teacher. He is deaf, so he does not notice when she plays the wrong notes. Jing-Mei takes advantage of his deafness by playing however she likes.
Rose Hsu Jordan's husband, a dermatologist. His losing in a medical malpractice lawsuit is the catalyst for their marriage's decline, and he eventually leaves Rose.
When she is a young girl, Arnold is the boy Lena St. Clair is terrified she will end up marrying. She tries to use superstition to kill him, thinking that by leaving grains of rice in her bowl, she will make him so pockmarked that he will die. Five years later, Arnold dies of rare complications from the measles. Lena is convinced she caused his death.
Waverly Jong's fiance and second husband-to-be. He is short, stocky, red-haired and freckled. They met at the tax firm where they both worked. He does not understand Chinese customs, and as a result he is constantly making social mistakes in front of Waverly's parents. He is the only man with whom Waverly has experienced so pure a love.
Waverly Jong's four-year-old daughter from her first marriage to Marvin Chen. Lindo and Tin Jong's only grandchild. She lives with her mother and Rich Shields.
Lindo Jong's husband and Waverly Jong's father. Also the father of Vincent and Winston Jong. He is a quiet but jolly man.
Husband of Suyuan Woo and father of Jing-mei Woo. Now that he is a widower, he has asked Jing-mei to take her mother's place in the Joy Luck Club.
An-mei Hsu's Mother
After An-mei's father dies, she is tricked into becoming Wu Tsing's Fourth Wife and moves to his house in Tientsin. When An-mei is nine, she returns home to nurse Popo on her deathbed. Then she takes An-mei with her to Tientsin, where she lives unhappily in her unprivileged position, being used by Wu Tsing and Second Wife. She finally poisons herself to death.
A rich merchant of Tientsin, who tricks An-mei Hsu's Mother into becoming his Fourth Wife. He is a fat man who lives in great Western luxury and treats his wives badly, especially An-mei Hsu's Mother.
Servant to An-mei Hsu's mother, who she thinks deserves a better life than she has in Wu Tsing's household. She is An-mei's only childhood friend after she moves into Wu Tsing's estate.
Wu Tsing's most prominent and favored wife, who gets what she wants by manipulating others and threatening suicide. She tricks An-mei Hsu's Mother into becoming Fourth Wife, and claims the son the latter bears as her own. She begins to lose her sway only when An-mei finally stands up to her.
Clifford St. Clair
Husband to Ying-ying St. Clair and father to Lena St. Clair. An American man with a jolly personality. He wooed Ying-ying when they were both living outside Shanghai, and has died before the time of the novel.
Waverly Jong's first husband, her high school sweetheart with whom she eloped and had a daughter, Shoshana.
Lena St. Clair's husband. After Lena encourages him, he starts his own architectural firm, Livotny & Associates, where she works under him. He insists they have separate bank accounts, and cannot manage to give himself over to her completely.
A sweet but mischievous girl who lives next door to Lena St. Clair when she is a child. Every night, she can be heard having terrible fights with her mother. Lena feels lucky in comparison to Teresa, whom she supposes lives a painful life.
A peasant woman who found and raised Jing-mei's long-lost sisters.
One of Jing-mei's long-lost sisters. She was born first, so her name means "Spring Rain."
One of Jing-mei's long-lost sisters. She was born second, so her name means "Spring Flower," which comes after the rain.
The Joy Luck Club Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Joy Luck Club is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
The story of the swan is the ultimate symbol of the American Dream in the novel. The mothers want their daughters to have all the privileges they could not, but are disappointed that this in turn means their daughters will not truly understand...
The novel opens with the chapter Jing-Mei Woo. The mood is reflective as Jing-mei Woo is remembering her mother who died of a brain aneurism. Still, there is a clinical sense to the mood. She speaks about how her mother died in a matter of fact...