The Joy Luck Club Chapter 11, Rose Hsu Jordan, Without Wood
Rose used to believe everything her mother, An-mei, said. When An-mei said that Old Mr. Chou was the guardian of the door to sleep, Rose believed her. But she was afraid of Mr. Chou, and she often had nightmares. Once, she dreamed that she got into trouble with Mr. Chou for not listening to her mother. She feels the same today. At a funeral for a very pious member of their church, they talk about Rose's divorce. Her mother is convinced that Ted is cheating on her, but Rose thinks the idea is ridiculous. An-mei is upset that Rose talks about her problems to her psychiatrist but not her mother. Actually, Rose has been talking about Ted to everyone but Ted. She talks about how much he has hurt her, and how much she misses being with him. But she also says she is better off without him, and wants to get revenge on him. She feels like this anger is progress, but her psychiatrist doesn't seem very interested.
She had been organizing their house, deciding what to keep and what to throw away, when she received a note from Ted. He sent divorce papers for Rose to sign and a check for ten thousand dollars "to tide you over." The two documents were written in different pens. The check was written out in the pen Rose had given him a year ago. He had said he would only use it to write important things. Rose is hurt, and tries to figure out why he used the special pen to write the check. Rose doesn't know whether to sign or not, so she puts the papers away. She remembers that her mother told her why she was so confused all the time: she didn't have any wood in her character. She always bent to what other people wanted. Considering this Chinese way of thinking, Rose had always thought that the American versions of things were better than the Chinese versions. But now she sees that American thoughts offer too many options: they are confusing. Rose walks around the house, noticing that the garden Ted used to be so proud of is now falling apart. She wonders if this offers some clue as to what happened to their marriage.
Not knowing what to do, she goes to bed for three days. She doesn't dream until the very end, when she dreams again of Old Mr. Chou. He is going to crush her, and he rings a loud bell. As Rose wakes up, the bell turns into the telephone. Her mother begs her to stand up for herself. Then Ted calls. He is angry that Rose has not yet signed the divorce papers. He wants to get married again, and is impatient. Shocked and humiliated to find out that he was cheating on her, she suddenly pulls herself together and tells him to come over. She doesn't know what she wants to do, but she knows she wants him to see her. When he arrives, she saw that he really doesn't care about her. She shows him the garden, taking her time, then suddenly tells him that she is not moving out. She likes the house, and wants to stay there. He is angry and tries to bully her, but she insists, and he is afraid. She is very proud of herself. That night she dreams about her mother and Mr. Chou again. They call her over to the garden, friendly. Her mother shows her she what she has planted, saying there is enough for both of them. "And below the heimongmong, all along the ground, were weeds already spilling out over the edges, running wild in every direction." Chapter 11, pg. 196