The Issue Of The Mother-daughter Relationships Depicted In Tthe Joy Luck Club'

In the book, Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, the main theme displayed is complex mother-daughter relationships between immigrant mothers and American born daughters. This book explores the inherent bond between mother and daughter despite cultural and generational differences. After the death of her mother, June Woo, is left with many questions about her mother and how she will be able to replace her at the Joy Luck Club. With the help of her mother’s three best friends, that are involved with the Joy Luck Club, she gets stories of her mother's life and emigration from China.

The beginning of the book presents us with a story of an unnamed woman emigrating from China. “This feather may look worthless, but it comes from afar and carries with it all my good intentions.' And she waited, year after year, for the day she could tell her daughter this in perfect American English.” (page 17)The woman is confiscated of her prized swan by American immigration and is eventually only left with one feather. This is a metaphor for the way American society stripes immigrants of their native culture. Coming to America leads the woman to sacrifice her culture for her daughter to have a better life. She faces the difficult decision of raising her daughter with the whitewashing that is imposed by American society, which makes it difficult to communicate due to the cultural barriers.

Ying-ying faces a similar problem as the unnamed woman. She feels disconnected from her daughter, as a result of her timid nature. “All these years I kept my true nature hidden, running along like a small shadow so nobody could catch me. And because I moved so secretly now my daughter does not see me. She sees a list of things to buy, her checkbook out of balance, her ashtray sitting crooked on a straight table. And I want to tell her this: we are lost, she and I, unseen and not seeing, unheard and not hearing, unknown by others.” (page 67) Her daughter's lack of awareness and the mother's quietness lead to distance in the relationship. The events that Ying-ying experienced in China have kept her feeling lost and Lena not knowing about her experiences has left their relationship distant.

“I don't believe you. Let me see the book.” “It is written in Chinese. You cannot understand it. That is why you must listen to me.”(page 87) In this passage, the mother tells her daughter not to bike away because of a book written in Chinese. The daughter does not believe her and asks to see the book, but the mother quickly dismisses her and insists that the daughter would not understand. The barrier between languages symbolizes the gap between the generations. The mother's lack of ability to explain her reasoning leads to resentment and cultural misunderstandings.

Lindo Jong uses the game of Ma jong to explain an important skill of life to her daughter, Waverly. “I was six when my mother taught me the art of invisible strength. It was a strategy for winning arguments, respect from others, and eventually, though neither of us knew it at the time, chess games.”(page 89) Lindo teaches her daughter to use quietness to her advantage in order to project inner confidence without saying a word. She does not teach her to be submissive, like the expectations of a wife in China. Lindo teaches her daughter lessons without altering her personality and, in the end, giving her far more freedom.

“A mother is best. A mother knows what is inside you,” she said above the singing voices. “ A psyche-atricks will only make you hulihudu, make you see heimongmong.” (page 149) Although other mothers and daughter relationships struggle with language in this book, Rose and An-Mei connect with language. But this also includes a dark side, An-Mei suggests that only she knows Rose and doubts a psychiatrist can help her, showing her love for her daughter is invasive.

The book often displays the disconnect between the mothers and their daughters. Waverly and her mother Lindo have a self-destructive relationship that becomes obsessive on both sides. “And my mother loved to show me off, like one of the many trophies she polished. She used to discuss my games as if she had devised the strategies...and a hundred other useless things that had nothing to do with my winning.” (page 170) Her mother takes credit when talking about Waverly’s chess winnings. Waverly thinks of herself as a trophy for her mother to polish, instead of true happiness from her mother.

The daughters eventually appreciate the importance of their cultures and begin to embrace them and it’s thought process. “Over the years, I learned to choose from the best opinions. Chinese people had Chinese opinions. American people had American opinions. And in almost every case, the American version was much better. It was only later that I discovered there was a serious flaw with the American version. There were too many options, so it was easy to get confused and pick the wrong thing.” (page 191) Rose compares the options within American and Chinese societies. Although America has many options regarding happiness in life, there are too many options and can lead to the obsession of what could have been.

At the end of the book, June meets her half-sisters in China. By meeting her half-sisters in China, June feels she has honored and respected her mother, something she was never able to do while her mother was alive. “I look at their faces again and see no trace of my mother in them. Yet they still look familiar. And now I also see what part of me is Chinese. It is so obvious. It is my family. It is in our blood. After all these years, I can finally be let go.” (page 288) From the beginning of her life, June wanted to break free from her Chinese heritage, but she now feels complete.

This book explores the unique relationship between immigrant mothers and second-generation children. The journey of the daughters understanding and appreciating their mother's culture. And the journey of the mothers closing the distance between each of their daughter's relationships. In the end, the daughters are accepting of their Chinese heritage and the struggles and sacrifice their mothers went through in order for them to have a better life. 

16 December 2021
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