Chapter 4, Ying-ying St. Clair, The Moon Lady Notes from The Joy Luck Club

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The Joy Luck Club Chapter 4, Ying-ying St. Clair, The Moon Lady

Ying-ying says that long ago she gave herself up, so now even her daughter doesn't see her or hear her. She says that she and her daughter are similar in this way. She remembers a time when she was not quiet and submissive. She was four years old, and it was 1918, the day of the Moon Festival. It was an important day, and this was the first time she was allowed to go to the ceremony. Her nursemaid explained that she should not ask questions about it, even though she was very curious. She is told that the Moon Lady will grant one secret wish to each person on this day. She waits impatiently. The women tell her that girls should not run around or make noise. Everyone is dressed up. They board a boat, and Ying-ying is very excited at all the activity. She watches people scaling fish and killing sea animals. Then suddenly she notices she has blood all over her clothes. When her nursemaid finds her, the woman screams at her and tells her they will both be banished for this. Ying-ying is forbidden to join the festivities. In the evening, she sees the huge moon in the sky, and is just about to make a wish when firecrackers go off and she falls into the water. She quickly gets picked up by a fishing net from another boat. The fishermen make fun of her, but a woman tries to be kind, asking her where she is from. They can see she is rich, so finally they decide to just leave her on the shore to be found. Wandering along the docks, Ying-ying comes upon a play about the Moon Lady. She has been doomed to live alone on the moon, never seeing her husband, because she is greedy and selfish. Ying-ying understands perfectly and begins to cry. The Moon Lady says, "For woman is yin, the darkness within, where untempered passions lie. And man is yang, bright truth lighting our minds." Chapter 4, pg. 81 Ying-ying does not understand that this is all an act, so she runs backstage after the show and finds the Moon Lady. Just as she says her wish, she sees that the Moon Lady is really an actor---a man. Remembering this as an old woman, Ying-ying says that she had forgotten almost all the details of that night. Though she was eventually found by her family, she doesn't believe she was ever the same again. And now she remembers what she wished for: to be found.

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