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The Significance of Mother-Daughter Relationships in Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club

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The Significance of Mother-Daughter Relationships in Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club


In her novel The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan tells of the lives of four Chinese immigrant mothers, their hopes, their dreams and the way each of their daughters feel about their mother's lives.  Mother-daughter relationships are the basis for the entire story.  Tan shows the hardships each mother experiences as a child and young adult, and how they all want better lives for their daughters.  She shows the struggles between the mothers and the daughters;  these struggles result from many different things, from the cultural gap, to dreams and goals that may have been set too high.  Each daughter knows her mother means well, but this does not make the battles any easier.  Through careful details Amy Tan shows readers the significance of each of the four mother-daughter relationships in the novel, how each daughter is slowly but surely becoming her mother.

Even though Suyuan Woo is not alive her story is told through her daughter, Jing-mei “June” Woo.  In the beginning of the novel readers witness June realizing how little she really knows about her mother and her heritage when she joins the other members of the club her mother founded called Joy Luck.  Jing-mei struggles with the division between who she is and who her mother wants her to be.  ""Only two kinds of daughters."  She shouted in Chinese.  "Those who are obedient and those who follow their own mind!"  Only one kind of daughter can live in this house.  Obedient daughter."" (153) Suyuan yells this when Jing-mei refuses to practice the piano after her embarrassing performance in the talent show.  She wants her mother to realize that she doesn't have to be a genius to be special, but Suyuan do...


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...y knew that in the U.S. children would be able to choose whom they married and which career they wanted to pursue. Each mother had wanted to tell her children the events she had endured but did not feel the children would appreciate the stories for their full value.   For many years, the mothers did not tell their daughters their stories until they were sure that their wayward offspring would listen, and by then, it is almost too late to make them understand their heritage that their mothers left behind, long ago, when they left China.  The mothers knew their children must be old enough to understand what the meaning of their travels to the United States meant to them.  They came to this country with many hopes and dreams, not only for themselves but for the children they would soon raise.

Works Cited

Tan, Amy. The Joy Luck Club. New York: Random House, 1989.


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