In The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan uses mothers and daughters to show the individuality of each woman.
Although both generations are of Chinese descent, they share completely different beliefs and morals. Amy Tan shows the miscommunication between the two generations and how mothers and daughters are unique through authentic dialect and dialogue. The women in this novel are constantly trying to find a balance between their Chinese heritage and their American lifestyles (Sonquist np). It is difficult for the two generations to understand each other because the two live by different standards of their way of life.
The older generation is more traditional, while the younger generation strives to find new identities in the American culture. All the while, the daughters still try to find a better understanding of their mothers (Dorris 90). Some people may say that through their arguments, the gap of miscommunication decreases while others say it increases. Wendy Ho explains in her interpretation of The Joy Luck Club that the two generations struggle to understand each other because they live in different worlds (143).
One generation was born and raised in China, while the other generation was born and raised in the United States. It is inevitable that the two have different cultures and beliefs. The mothers and daughters always tend to disagree with one another’s meanings for different ideas. When Lindo Jong was a little girl in China, she was obligated to marry not the man of her dreams, but the man of the matchmaker’s decision.
She sacrificed her happiness in order to fulfill her parents’ wishes. Now in America, Lindo Jong complains that the word “promise” to her daughter is not as significant as it used to be back in China.To her daughter Waverly Jong, a promise of eating dinner with parents can easily be disregarded by the excuse of a headache (49). Another example is when Ying-ying St.
Clair was put in the guest bedroom of her daughter’s house. According to Chinese culture, the guest bedroom is the best in the house and should be reserved for the husband and wife. However, to the eyes of her daughter Lena St. Clair, the guest bedroom is the smallest of rooms and is meant for guests, just as the name explains (242).
Lastly, An-Mei Hsu criticizes her daughter about the way she makes choices.An-Mei knows the importance of choices and how there is always another choice because she was brought up in a strict Chinese household. However, her daughter Rose Hsu Jordon feels like she has no choice other than to leave her stressful lifestyle and give up on her husband by divorce instead of working around the obstacles (215). The mothers also tend to put too much pressure upon their daughters.
Suyuan Woo left behind everything in China including her parents, her first husband, her home, and two daughters. Because of this, she tries to force her hopes and dreams upon her daughter, Jing Mei Woo (132).Suyuan compares her daughter to prodigies to try to compel her to be more talented than all the rest of the kids (134). The pressure builds up so rapidly that Jing Mei looks at her reflection in the mirror one day and decides that she would never be able to satisfy her mother’s desires.
The daughters do not agree or respect their mothers’ actions. For example, Waverly Jong is an expert chess player. However, when her mother boasts too much about her being chess champion, she runs away (99). Another example, which also deals with the Jong’s, is when Waverly takes her mother to a restaurant.
It is here that her mother loudly and obnoxiously announces her disapproval of the not-so-clean chopsticks and bowls (166). Waverly desperately tries to settle her mother down, all the while trying to hold down her own fury (167). On top of Lindo’s immature behavior, she forces Waverly to stay for dinner at the family home. Waverly is merely walking past her mother’s home when she is spotted by her mother.
Lindo uses excuses such as having to throw away cooked food in order to convince Waverly to stay for dinner against her will (176).These Chinese mothers not only think differently from their daughters but also embarrass them with their actions. The mothers use choppy English while the daughters use sloppy Chinese which represents miscommunication but also shows great use of dialogue and dialect (Miner 261). Lena St.
Clair has conversations with her mother that her American father is not invited to hear. During these conversations, her mother talks in Chinese and although Lena understands all of these words perfectly, she can not understand the meaning of the words together (106).Mothers tend to have the ability to look inside their daughters and read their thoughts. In Rose Hsu Jordon’s case, she intentionally fills her mind with “English thoughts” to confuse her mother (191).
In another situation, while having a conversation with her mother, Waverly misunderstands her mother’s English and unintentionally offends her. Waverly’s mother was explaining about all the good characteristics that the people from Taiyuan, China, have. Waverly mistakes Taiyuan for Taiwan and leaves her mother in a rage against the Taiwanese wanting to be Chinese (183).The daughters create new personalities and characteristics unique to the American culture while the mothers struggle to adapt because of their own characteristics that are just as unique but to the Chinese culture (Niehuser np).
Rose Hsu Jordan marries a non Chinese-American (117). Although this incident should have been expected, her mother never thought of a marriage outside of the Chinese-American community. Another situation that shocks a mother is when Ying-ying St. Clair finds out her daughter bases her marriage on a 50-50 scale (160-161).
Ying-ying disagrees with this because she believes that once a couple is married, they share all their belongings whether they are money, food, or each other’s hearts. In this last situation, marriage is also dealt with. Waverly Jong eloped when she was 18, divorced soon after, got pregnant, and now wants to remarry to another man (167). Maybe in the American culture it is okay to do so, but in the Chinese culture it is frowned upon, which is why her mother disapproves of it.
The mothers brought to America their characteristics learned in China, and to many Americans, these characteristics may seem overwhelming.Ying-ying St. Clair has the ability to predict bad events by interpreting an object’s message. She once predicted that the baby in her womb would “fall out” dead because her new apartment was on too steep of a hill.
When a plumbing store opened across the street from a bank, Ying-ying predicted that the bank’s money would be “drained away”. Soon later, the bank was shut down for embezzlement (149). In Lindo Jong’s case, it is not about having a special ability but being able to put her own desires behind her parents. She was destined to marry a man whom she had never met before and went through with the marriage because her parents told her to (49).
Lindo has a strong belief about obeying parents’ orders, which leads to An-Mei Hsu’s characteristic. An-Mei believes that her daughter should obey all of her wishes and also tell her mother about all her life problems. An-Mei complains that her daughter feels freer talking to a psychiatrist rather than her own mother (188). She finds this disturbing and wishes that Rose should tell her all her problems because she knows all her flaws and perfections.
One last quality that the mothers all have in common is their ignorance and sense of pride. Two examples hold this to be true.During Christmas, Lindo Jong’s family receives a used chess set donated by an old white woman. When she gets home, she tells her children to throw it away; her reasoning is that if it is not good enough for the woman, then it is not good enough for her family (93).
In another incident, Suyuan Woo is eating crabs for Chinese New Year. However, she refuses to eat the one that she is left with because she knows by the scent that the crab was dead before it was cooked. Suyuan goes on to say that “even a beggar don’t want it,” emphasizing that the crab is not even worthy enough to be eaten (207).The Joy Luck Club is a very powerful book that shows a “central mother-daughter relationship” (Hughes 38).
This book gives examples of how mothers and daughters from different countries learn to cope with one another’s differences. Amy Tan uses her novel to tell a story of mothers with lost identities who try to balance between Chinese and American culture in order to find ways to meet both standards of living. Daughters struggle to understand their mothers all the while being stuck between Chinese heritage and American lifestyles.