Communication in Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club

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Communication in The Joy Luck Club

Sadly, the characters revealed in The Joy Luck Club have personal histories so complicated by cultural and emotional misunderstandings that their lives are spent in failed attempts to cross the chasms created by these circumstances.

Lindo Jong provides the reader with a summary of her difficulty in passing along the Chinese culture to her daughter: “I wanted my children to have the best combination: American circumstances and Chinese character. How could I know these two things do not mix? I taught her how American circumstances work. If you are born poor here, it's no lasting shame . . . You do not have to sit like a Buddha under a tree letting pigeons drop their dirty business on your head . . . In America, nobody says you have to keep the circumstances somebody else gives you. . . . but I couldn't teach her about Chinese character . . . How to know your own worth and polish it, never flashing it around like a cheap ring. Why Chinese thinking is best”(Tan 289).

Each of the Chinese mothers attempted to guide her daughters, yet they were ill equipped to translate their life experiences in China to the alien environment they found in America. It was their lives, not their language, that they were unable to translate. Like her friend Lindo, An Mei Hsu was raised the Chinese way, as she describes:

" . . . taught to desire nothing, to swallow other people's misery, to eat my own bitterness. And even though I taught my daughter the opposite, still she came out the same way! Maybe it is because she was born to me and she was born a girl. And I was born to my mother and I was born a girl. All of us are like stairs, one step after another, going up and down, but all going the same way"(Tan 289).

As the story unfolds, both mothers and daughters are forced to face "truths" that their own private histories had previously blinded them to. Yet, as readers, we must ask "what is truth?" When a person lives their life according to that which they believe to be true, does their belief not become the truth itself, with the conventional "truth" then becoming a lie? As the characters begin to face their past demons, in order to resolve their personal conflicts (both internal and external), the reader begins to hope that their might be resolution.

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"Communication in Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club." 21 Mar 2018
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Perhaps the daughters are old enought to learn their mother's secrets. Is there not a point when understanding finally comes? A time when both sides can lower their defenses and share their dreams and failures, hopes and disappointments? Midway through the book, we hear Jing Mei Woo’s plaintive cry,

"Unlike my mother, I do not believe I could be anything I wanted to be. I could only be me . . . I never found a way to ask her why she had hoped for something so large that failure was inevitable. And even worse, I never asked her what frightened me the most: Why had she given up hope?"(Tan 154).

Yet, did she? Did An Mei's story not end in resolution? In the end, her daughters are united, and she lives on through them. June describes the Polaroid picture her father had taken of her together with her two sisters,

"Although we don't speak, I know we all see it: Together we look like our mother. Her same eyes, her same mouth, open in surprise to see, at last, her long-cherished wish."

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