Mother Daughter Relationships - Understanding Mothers and Daughters in Amy Tan's Joy Luck Club

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Understanding the Mothers and Daughters of The Joy Luck Club  


Amy Tan's novel, The Joy Luck Club explores a variety of mother-daughter relationships between the characters, and at some level, relationships between friends, lovers, and even enemies.  The mother-daughter relationships are most likely the different aspects of Amy Tan's relationship with her mother, and perhaps, some parts are entirely figments of her imagination.  Therefore, Amy Tan believes that ramification of cultures and tradition between a family can be burdensome and cause the family tree to fall apart.

            From the beginning of the novel, we hear Suyuan Woo tell the story of "The Joy Luck Club," a group started by some Chinese women during World War II.  June explains while remembering the memories of her mother, " 'We feasted, we laughed, we played games, lost and won, we told the best stories...we could hope to be lucky.  That hope was our only joy,' " (12).  The mothers grew up during perilous times in China.  They were raised to never forget an important outlook of their life, which was, "to desire nothing, to swallow other people's misery, to eat [their] own bitterness" (241).  For many years, the mother did not tell their daughters their stories until they were sure that their fractious offspring would listen.  By then, it is almost too late to make them understand their heritage that their mother left behind in China.  It seems that their family's legacy cannot seize their imaginations after years, decades, and centuries of blissfulness and sorrow.

            Through the eyes of the daughters, we can also see the continuation of the mother's stories, how they learned to cope in America.  With this, Amy Tan touches on an obscure, little discussed issue, which is the divergence of Chinese culture through American children born of Chinese immigrant parents.  The Chinese-American daughters try their best to become "Americanized," at the same time, casting off their heritage while their mothers watch in dismay.  For example, after the piano talent show fiasco, a quarrel breaks out between June and Suyuan.  June does not have the blind obedience "to desire nothing...to eat [her] own bitterness."  She says to herself, " 'I didn't have to do what my mother said anymore.  I wasn't her slave.  This wasn't China' " (152).  Unbeknownst to June, Suyuan only hopes and wants the best for her daughter.  She explains, " 'Only one kind of daughter can live in this house.

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"Mother Daughter Relationships - Understanding Mothers and Daughters in Amy Tan's Joy Luck Club." 123HelpMe.com. 19 Jun 2018
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  Obedient daughter!' " (153).  She means that any daughter should follow her parent's request without questions, not like the American daughter who follows her own mind.  However, June answers back to her, " 'I wish you weren't my mother...I wish I were dead!' " (153).  Unfortunately, the daughters want their mother to know that social pressures to become like everyone else, and not to be different are what motivate them to resent their nationality.  They do not want to force themselves to think of their parents' suffering as a metaphor than an actual event.

            Finally, the fascinating trails and experiences the mothers went through are a testament to their enduring nature and constant devotion.  It has shown them that pure Chinese blood can be changed completely through a generation.  While, the mothers conclude their stories, the daughters finally realize the pain, heartaches, and happiness of their ancestors.  The desire of their mother to protect them, to teach them "how to lose your innocence, but not your hope.  How to laugh forever."  The daughters begin to accept this "Chinese part" of them in their blood, with "East meeting West."  Consequently, as the story ends it becomes evident that the Joy Luck Club will continue, and that there is a renewed appreciation for what it means to be Chinese among the newer generation who must now pass this bond on to their own children.

            In conclusion, Amy Tan presents conflicting views and the stories of both sides, providing the reader, and ultimately the characters, with an understanding of the manner of thinking of both the mother and the daughter.  She points out that anyone can pass a series of obstacles whenever it involves your own family.  As Nelson Mandela says,        " 'We are born to make manifest the glory...that is within us.  It's not just in some of us, it's in everyone.  And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people the permission to do the same.  As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates other.' "  Above all, we realize that life is uncertain, the future unknowable, the unthinkable possible.


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