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The Joy Luck Club | Part 4, Chapter 3 : Double Face (Lindo Jong) | Summary

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Summary

Lindo Jong faults herself for her daughter's decidedly un-Chinese ways. She "wanted my children to have the best combination: American circumstances and Chinese character." She has since learned "these two things do not mix." To Lindo's disappointment, Waverly does not obey her parents, does not hide her feelings in order to "take advantage of hidden opportunities," or take humble pride in her own worth. Instead Waverly is self-centered and seemingly embarrassed by her mother.

This is evident at the salon appointment Waverly makes for Lindo before Waverly's wedding. She and Mr. Rory, the hairstylist, both talk about Lindo as if she weren't there and as if she can't understand English. Lindo is pleased when Mr. Rory points out how much mother and daughter look alike, but Waverly isn't. Unlike Lindo she would rather look like anyone but her mother.

Lindo's narration is now addressed to Waverly. She wants Waverly to know how the circumstances of her own life have affected Waverly's, from her separation from her family in China at 12 to how she came to live in the United States to how she and her husband fell in love. She also corrects some of Waverly's incorrect assumptions about her mother's life, like how her parents met and what her life in China had been like. Life in America was unfamiliar and hard, but Lindo was content. Then Waverly was born. Seeing how much Waverly looked like her, Lindo became "dissatisfied with [her] life." All of a sudden she wants more for her family—"the best circumstances, the best character." She wants her daughter to never have any regrets.

In Mr. Rory's salon Lindo notices for the first time Waverly's nose is crooked. Her mother once told Lindo that a crooked nose was a sign that someone is "bound for misfortune." Waverly insists it has always been that way, but Lindo insists she should have plastic surgery. "Our nose isn't so bad," Waverly says. "It makes us look devious." She explains it's okay to be two-faced—"looking one way, while following another"—as long as they get what they want. Lindo considers her two faces, one American, one Chinese. She recalls visiting China the year before and no longer being treated by her countrymen as one of them any longer. She's not sure which of her two faces is better and decides to ask Waverly what she thinks.

Analysis

Lindo is obsessed with physical and metaphorical faces. As a child her mother told her what the features of her face meant and how they foretold her future. A nose that is "straight and smooth" is a good sign, which is why Lindo insists Waverly have plastic surgery to correct her imperfect nose. Lindo's is the same as Waverly's, but that trait isn't genetic. Lindo hit her nose on a bus seat before Waverly was born. That's one of the reasons why she thinks her outlook changed after Waverly's birth, because "a girl with a crooked nose is bound for misfortune." She wants Waverly to have the best life possible, so she suggests plastic surgery to correct the imperfections.

This is an indication the future isn't set in stone. A change in one's face, such as a receding hairline or a scar, are signs that one's future has also changed. It doesn't matter if the change is natural or not; what matters is the change itself. This is similar to Ying-ying St. Clair's experience in Part 4, Chapter 2 when she becomes unattractive after her husband leaves, then suddenly turns pretty again when she starts working at the department store. It isn't clear whether one's appearance changes the future or if the future changes one's appearance, but there's definitely a connection there.

Lindo also talks about metaphorical faces. There is the Chinese face, which shows her true feelings. She had to learn to hide this face when she came to America so she wouldn't be sent back to China. Her American face, therefore, is generally more false, constructed to guard her innermost feelings. For all her protests that she is nothing like her mother, Waverly does the exact same thing, delighting in being "two-faced" in order to get what she wants.

Lindo isn't as comfortable with the notion that one's face must be sacrificed to show the other. Her American face has left an indelible mark on her, and she is no longer viewed by native Chinese citizens as completely Chinese herself. A part of her feels lost. Instead of looking to her past to find the answer, she decides to look to the future and ask Waverly. Up until this point none of the mothers in The Joy Luck Club have gone to their daughters for advice. They have always assumed the role of caretaker, and for the most part they have been stalwart in their beliefs that customs from the past are the best. Lindo's decision to consult Waverly is a sign her Chinese face is not as present as it once was. It also shows Lindo's recognition of Waverly as an adult and an equal.

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