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Suyuan Woo and Jing-mei (June) Woo: Like Mother Like Daughter

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Suyuan Woo and Jing-mei (June) Woo: Like Mother Like Daughter The Joy Luck Club encompasses the stories of four Chinese women leaving China, to live in a new world of people, language, and culture in America. The book written by Amy Tan features each woman’s story, her American born Chinese daughter’s life, and culture clashes between them. Also an American born Chinese, Amy Tan empathizes with the daughters and the mothers of her novel. Each mother tells her daughter her story of hardships and experiences she had overcame in China before coming to America.

The purpose of these stories is to give a lesson and advice to the daughters and hope each daughter will not make the same mistake in her life.

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The story of Suyuan Woo carries the regret of abandoning her twin baby daughters during the Japanese invasion in China around 1944. Later she moved to America with her second husband, Canning Woo and gave birth to one of the daughter protagonists, Jing-mei Woo.

Suyuan holds hope and continues searching for her two twin daughters throughout her life, but death left Jing-mei to finish fulfilling her mother’s wish. Suyuan Woo came to America with hopes and dreams of giving the best life to her daughter. She carried a swan during the journey, but when she arrived in America the immigration officials took this swan away, leaving only the swan feather. Suyuan told her daughter, Jing-mei, “This feather may look worthless, but it comes from afar and carries with it all my good intentions.” (3) Her good intentions meant hope.

When leaving a homeland and coming to a new place to live, a person can only wish for hope for the later generation. After coming to America, Suyuan’s optimisms led her to establish the Joy Luck Club; inviting the three other protagonists: Lindo Jong, An-mei Hsu, and Ying Ying St. Clair, to join her. The club was a place for grievances and sorrow to be forgotten and happiness to be created. Like all Chinese mothers, Suyuan wishes that her daughter will become a prodigy with a certain skill. At the age of nine, Jing-mei was chosen to play piano. She did not have any choice, but to follow her mother’s guidelines. Moreover, Chinese mothers stereotypically also like to compete with each other by comparing their children’s successes and seeing whoever made the greatest achievement. A competition existed between Lindo and her daughter Waverly against Suyuan and her own daughter Jing-mei. Jing-mei did not want to disappoint her mother, so all she could have done was play piano. After a while, Jing-mei could not tolerate playing and practicing piano for her
mother; soon an argument broke out. Suyuan yelled to her daughter in Chinese, “Only two kinds of daughter.

Those who are obedient and those who follow their own mind! Only one kind of daughter can live in this house. Obedient daughter!” (153) Jing-mei told her mother how she wished she did not want to be her daughter and wished that Suyuan was not her mother. The next response she gave was “Then I wish I’ve never been born! I wish I were dead! Like them!” (p.144) “Them” referred to the twin daughters in China. This fight ended Suyuan demanding Jing-mei play piano. The relationship of Suyuan and Jing-mei can be described as loving but distant and aloof. Jing-mei was observant of her mother’s thoughts when living in America, but never knew of her thoughts back in China and of the twin daughters. She never asked her mother about the event that led to the abandonment of the daughters because Jing-mei knew if she mentioned about the twins, the sorrow that lived in her mother’s heart would burst. The painful event was very intense that not mentioning about the memory always became the better choice. Therefore, Jing-mei never asked the question and the absent knowledge of her mother’s past as well resulted a gap between them. At times, misunderstandings were created, such as the last celebration of Chinese New Year when her mother was still alive. The Woo family and the Jong family ate a prosperous crab dinner together. Competition still occurred between the Waverly and Jing-mei at an adult age about their work level. At the end it seemed that Jing-mei’s mother sided with Waverly, but there was another message to her siding with Waverly.

When they were cleaning up the dinner plates Jing-mei confronted her mother about not being successful and the daughter that she wanted her to be. Suyuan told her that she was not disappointed in her because she knew her daughter had many good qualities. Jing-mei is a generous person and lets other have the best while taking the worst for herself. This conversation made their relationship stronger and they also began to understand each other more. Amy Tan portrays this relationship of Suyuan and Jing-mei by going back and forth in the mother’s time and setting and the different time and setting of the daughter’s life. The dissimilar time and setting affected each character differently. Suyuan experienced hardships and distress at abandoning her twin daughters during wartimes and continuing to live life as if no worries came to place. All that Suyuan hoped for was raising Jing-mei well to have a better life in America than she did in China. She wanted her daughter to do and have the very best in life. When Jing-mei was nine-years-old her mother collected magazines as if they were school study guides to help her gain knowledge because she had no other way to help her. She did not know the ways of teaching in American schools because most of her life was spent in China.

Suyuan also gave Jing-mei the opportunity to learn piano. At a young age, Jing-mei did not know why her mother had made her do things she never wanted to. She felt challenged and pressured when she had to meet her mother’s high standards in life. She did not fully and finally understand until the conversation on Chinese New Year. When one immigrates to another country entirely different from one’s homeland, the culture of the place affects the family relationship. For the older generation will have to leave behind their traditions and culture. As for the younger generation, they have already been adapted to the birthplace as their homeland and it often results in culture clashes. If parents from the older generation required their children to adopt their ancestral culture, they would face more obstacles of retracing their past. Suyuan and Jing-mei came upon the situation with the Japanese’s invasion on China which made Suyuan flee to America.

This event evidently created a gap between Suyuan and her daughter causing misunderstandings throughout their lives. At the end, Suyuan and Jing-mei never really understood each other, which made their relationship very aloof and distant. As has been said, Jing-mei did know her mother well until she talked with her father and her mother’s best friends: Lindo, An-mei, and Ying Ying. When she had more familiarity about her mother’s personality and character, she took this opportunity to tell her twin sisters about their mother when they reunited in Shanghai. The hope of finding the twin daughters in Suyuan transferred to Jing-mei. The miracle of the twin daughters being alive had brought Jing-mei closer to her family. She learned to cherish the people who are still living around her.

MLA Citation:
Tan, Amy. The Joy Luck Club. Ballantine Books, 1989.

Cite this Suyuan Woo and Jing-mei (June) Woo: Like Mother Like Daughter

Suyuan Woo and Jing-mei (June) Woo: Like Mother Like Daughter. (2016, Oct 20). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/suyuan-woo-and-jing-mei-june-woo-like-mother-like-daughter/

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