The Joy Luck Club: Lesson Four

Contributor: Melissa Kowalski. Lesson ID: 12729

When you tell someone about a person they've never met you want to convey what that person is like: how he or she looked, spoke, acted. Based on descriptions, evaluate the characters in Tan's stories!


Literary Studies

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!


Characters in books and movies are displayed on two-dimensional pages and screens. It's especially hard to imagine characters in print when you can't see them. What differentiates one character from another? How can you tell them apart?

Characters form the basis of any story.

Without characters, there is nothing to drive the plot. A story without characters is just description of a scene; there's no narrative. Try it yourself by creating a story in your mind without characters — there's nothing but scenery, is there? Therefore, how an author creates a character is an essential element to any story. There are several techniques an author uses to create a character. The culmination of such techniques is called characterization. To learn about these techniques, visit the following website. As you read about the process of characterization, answer the questions below in your notebook or journal that you have been keeping for this series, The Joy Luck Club.

  • What are the two broad categories for how an author conveys information about a character?
  • What are the seven methods for creating characterization in a text?

Read Narrative Elements: Characterization, from Author's Craft, and answer the questions.

  • Which method of characterization do you think is the most effective, and why?
  • In your opinion, which, if any, method of characterization is overused, and why?

Once you've answered the questions, read the next three stories or chapters of The Joy Luck Club: "Four Directions: Waverly Jong," "Without Wood: Rose Hsu Jordan," and "Best Quality: Jing-Mei Woo." Use the copy of the book that you used for the previous lessons. As you read, take notes on the way in which the characters' personalities are created by the author, Amy Tan. You can refer back to the list of seven methods you wrote down in your notes earlier in this lesson to help you with terminology.

When you’ve finished reading and taking your notes, move on to the Got It? section to further explore the three girls' lives that are described in the stories or chapters that you have just read.

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