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How can she think she can blend in? Only her skin and her hair are Chinese. Inside—she is all American-made.
Lindo Jong discusses her daughter Waverly, who is planning her wedding and honeymoon to China with Rich. To Lindo, Waverly has expressed her fear that she will blend in so well with the Chinese that she won’t be allowed to return to America. When Lindo replies that the Chinese will know Waverly is American before she even opens her mouth, Waverly is disappointed. Lindo reproaches herself for having tried to make her daughter half Chinese and half American, when such a combination is impossible. She regrets not having taught Waverly enough about her Chinese heritage.
Before her wedding, Waverly takes Lindo to her fashionable hair stylist, Mr. Rory. Lindo believes that Waverly does so because she is ashamed of her mother. While Mr. Rory and Waverly discuss her as though she were not there, Lindo wears her “American face”—the face the Americans think is Chinese. But inside she is ashamed, because she is proud of Waverly, but Waverly is not proud of her. When Mr. Rory notes that Lindo and Waverly resemble one another, Lindo smiles her true smile, wearing her “Chinese face.” When Mr. Rory hurries away, Lindo ponders the resemblance in the mirror, thinking about the internal qualities that both women also share. She remembers seeing herself and her own mother back in China, comparing their features then. Her mother told her that she could read her fortune in her face. She had told Lindo that she was fortunate to have a straight nose, because a girl with a bent nose is “bound for misfortune . . . always following the wrong things, the wrong people, the worst luck.”
Lindo talks about the difficulties of keeping one’s “Chinese face” in America. When she first came to San Francisco, she worked in a fortune-cookie factory, where she met An-mei Hsu. An-mei introduced her to Tin Jong, who would become Lindo’s husband. While pregnant with Waverly, Lindo bumped her nose on the bus, making it crooked. She suspects that the crooked nose damaged her thinking, for when Waverly was born, Lindo saw how closely she resembled her and suddenly feared that Waverly’s life path would resemble her own. She thus named her Waverly, after the street they lived on, to let her know that America, San Francisco in particular, was where she belonged. She knew that by naming her daughter after their street, she was taking the first step in making her wholly American, and thus alienating her daughter from herself.
In the beauty parlor mirror, Lindo notices that Waverly’s nose is crooked like her own, even though Lindo’s nose is crooked due to an accident, not her genes. Lindo urges her daughter to get cosmetic surgery, but Waverly laughs because she is pleased to share this feature with Lindo. She says she thinks it makes them look “devious”: people know they are two-faced, but they cannot always tell what they are thinking. Lindo thinks about the two faces both women share, and wonders which is American and which is Chinese. When Lindo visited China, she wore Chinese clothing and used local currency, but people still knew that she was an American—she wonders what she has lost.
In the final story of The Joy Luck Club, Jing-mei discusses her trip to China to meet her half-sisters, and she finishes the story of her mother’s life. When Jing-mei was a teenager, although she knew she looked Chinese, she denied that she possessed any inner, essential Chinese nature below the surface. Suyuan had insisted that once one is born Chinese, one cannot help but feel and think Chinese. Now that she is in China for the first time, Jing-mei feels that there was truth in her mother’s assertions—something in her does feel at home in China. Yet, she realizes that she has never known precisely what it means to be Chinese.
Jing-mei now thinks back to the origins of her trip. Not wanting to deceive or disappoint her sisters Chwun Yu and Chwun Hwa, she persuaded Lindo Jong to write to them about their mother’s death. Jing-mei and her sisters are the only known living relatives of Suyuan, as Suyuan’s entire family died when a Japanese bomb landed on their house, killing several generations in an instant.
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