Mother-daughter Relations and Clash of Cultures in Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club

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      Amy Tan is an American Born Chinese, daughter of immigrants, and her family shares many features with the families depicted in her novels. Tan's novels offer some glimpses of life in China while developing the themes of mother-daughter relations, cultural adaptation and "women with a past".  Tan’s novels share many themes and elements, but this paper will focus mainly on two episodes of the novel The Joy Luck Club: "The Joy Luck Club" and "Waiting Between the Trees"; and will make references to The Kitchen's God Wife and The Hundred Secret Senses.

In the first place, mother-daughter relations between Chinese mothers and ABC daughters are not easy ones in Tan's novels. They are always problematic. Mothers want to bring up their children according to the Chinese ways, whereas daughters want to live their own life according to the "American Way of Life", despising Chinese habits and traditions, sometimes to the extent of being ashamed of their origins. Amy Tan herself confessed that, as a child, she used to put "a clothespin on her nose hoping to make it pert, to change its Asian shape."


In "Waiting Between the Trees," Lena St. Clair sees her mother, Ying-Ying as a weak-minded woman who needs constant help. This impression is aroused by Ying- Ying's traditional Chinese female education. In Ying- Ying's times, women used to be educated to be obedient, to honor one's parents, one's husband and to try to please him and his family. This education is based on Confucius's teachings: during her life a woman has to follow three persons during her whole life: at home, she has to follow her father; married, she has to follow her husband; and when her husband dies, she has to follow her son. Therefore a woman is not supp...

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...hers and daughters which have their source in a clash of cultures. In her novels, she reflects Chinese history, traditions, education and superstition, together with may experiences takes from her family history, all of which provides a convincing representation directly inspired in the real everyday life of the Chinese colony in the United States.


Works Cited

Tan, Amy (1989). The Joy Luck Club. New York: Ivy Books.

-- (1991). The Kitchen God's Wife. New York: Ivy Books.

-- (1995). The Hundred Secret Senses. New York: Ivy Books.

Ng, Mei (1998). Eating Chinese Food Naked. Harmondsworth: Penguin.


Liu, Ping (1997). Adjusting to a New Society: A Study of Educated Chinese Women:

Interview with Amy Tan: The Joy Luck Club Lady:


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