Lindo Jong learns from an early age the powers of “invisible strength”—of hiding one’s thoughts until the time is ripe to reveal them, and of believing in one’s inner force even when one finds oneself at a disadvantage. She discovers these values while in China, caught in a loveless marriage and oppressed by the tyranny of her mother-in-law. By playing upon her mother-in-law’s superstition and fear, Lindo eventually extricates herself from the marriage with her dignity intact, and without dishonoring her parents’ promise to her husband’s family.
Lindo later teaches these skills of invisible strength—for which she uses the wind as a metaphor—to her daughter Waverly. Her lessons nurture Waverly’s skill at chess, but Waverly comes to resent her mother’s control and seeming claims of ownership over her successes. Eventually, Waverly seems to become ashamed of Lindo and misunderstands her as a critical, controlling, and narrow-minded old woman.
Lindo perhaps experiences the largest crisis of cultural identity of any of the characters. She regrets having wanted to give Waverly both American circumstances and a Chinese character, stating that the two can never successfully combine. She thinks that from the moment she gave Waverly an American name—she named her after the street where the family lived—she has allowed her daughter to become too American, and consequently contributed to the barrier that separates them. At the same time, however, she recognizes her own American characteristics and knows that she is no longer “fully Chinese”: during her recent visit to China, people recognized her as a tourist. Distressed by this, Lindo wonders what she has lost by the alteration. Her strategies of concealing inner powers and knowledge may be related to her ability to maintain what Waverly characterizes as a type of “two-facedness”—an ability to switch between a “Chinese” and an “American” face depending on whom she is with.