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Essay on Search for Identity in Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club

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Search for Identity in Joy Luck Club

 
   Each person reaches a point in their life when they begin to search for their own, unique identity. In her novel, Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan follows Jing Mei on her search for her Chinese identity – an identity long neglected.

 

Four Chinese mothers have migrated to America. Each hope for their daughter’s success and pray that they will not experience the hardships faced in China. One mother, Suyuan, imparts her knowledge on her daughter through stories. The American culture influences her daughter, Jing Mei, to such a degree that it is hard for Jing Mei to understand her mother's culture and life lessons. Yet it is not until Jing Mei realizes that the key to understanding who her mother was and who she is lies in understanding her mother's life.

 

Jing Mei spends her American life trying to pull away from her Chinese heritage, and therefore also ends up pulling away from her mother. Jing Mei does not understand the culture and does not feel it is necessary to her life. When she grows up it is not "fashionable" to be called by your Chinese name (Tan 26). She doesn't use, understand, or remember the Chinese expressions her mother did, claiming she "can never remember things [she] didn't understand in the first place" (Tan 6). Jing Mei "begs" her mother "to buy [her] a transistor radio", but her mother refuses when she remembers something from her past, asking her daughter "Why do you think you are missing something you never had?" (Tan 13) Instead of viewing the situation from her mother's Chinese-influenced side, Jing Mei takes the juvenile American approach and "sulks in silence for an hour" (Tan 13). By ignoring her mom and her mom's advice, Jing Mei is also ignoring...


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...Jing Mei realizes the part of her that is Chinese is her family. She must embrace the memory of her dead mother to grasp that part of her identity.

 

Works Cited and Consulted:

Gates, David. Critical Extract. Asian-American Women Writers. Ed. Harold Bloom. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 1997. 83-4.

Heung, Marina. "Daughter-Text/Mother-Text: Matrilineage in Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club." Feminist Studies (Fall 1993): 597-616.

Huntley, E. D. Amy Tan: A Critical Companion. Westport: Greenwood P, 1998.

Shear, Walter. "Generational differences and the diaspora in The Joy Luck Club." Women Writers. 34.3 (Spring 1993): 193

Tan, Amy. The Joy Luck Club. Vintage Contemporaries. New York: A Division of Random House, Inc., 1991..

Wong, Sau-ling Cynthia. Reading Asian American Literature: From Necessity to Extravagance. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1993


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