The Joy Luck Club Research Paper

The Joy Luck Club Research Paper

In the novel The Joy Luck Club, the author Amy Tan writes the stories by focusing on the clash between low-context American and high-context Chinese culture. The four mothers and four daughters grow up in very different education ways, which leads them to different characterizations. But love and hope can finally reconcile the serious conflict of generation gap. The author Amy Tan is born in America on 2.19.1952, whose parents are Chinese immigrants. She is interested in both Chinese and American culture since childhood, and is considered as a representative of American Chinese writers after the publication of The Joy Luck Club. "Tan was born in 1952 in Oakland, California. … Tan was strongly influenced by her mother's storytelling about the family's Chinese heritage, and she later used oral storytelling as a narrative device in her fiction. ... Tan's first novel, The Joy Luck Club, brought her acclaim, and rose quickly on The New York Times bestseller list" (Bomarito and Hunter Tan, Amy: Introduction 1).

The novel begins with a story of the immigration of Suyuan Woo, Jing-mei's mother, and the foundation of the Joy Luck Club. The members include three other Chinese immigrant families. The four mothers have daughters born in America, who have strong misunderstanding to China. They refused to learn Chinese education and language; as a result of they know almost nothing about China. As their mothers help them to solve their problems in life with love and hope, they eventually know something they originally should know about China. The novel ends with Jing-mei's journey to China, which recalls her of Chinese blood. The major theme is the generation gap between mother and daughter, caused by the clash of Chinese culture and American culture. Also because of the special historical period of the Republican China, the mothers' hopes, power to their daughters are extremely strong. It is another reason to cause the conflict. Amy Tan develops the theme that although there is a culture clash between Chinese mother and American daughter, love and hope can reconcile the conflict through the use of characterization and setting.

Suyuan Woo and Jing-mei Woo are a Chinese mother and an American daughter. Suyuan was dead four months ago as novel begins, leaving a moving story of a swan feather. Jing-mei has never lived up to Suyuan's expectations during her lifetime, and she seems to be not perfect enough. Jing-mei doesn't understand the stories Suyuan tells her because she has never been in China during the Republican Era. But actually, Suyuan knows that her daughter is a kind person, who is much better than Waverly in this case. When her lost sisters are found in China eventually, Jing-mei is asked to take her mother's place in the Joy Luck Club by the three friends of her mother. But she says that she doesn't know her mother at all and she has nothing to say! As Tan writes, "What will I say? What can I tell them about my mother? I don’t know anything" (Tan 40). She still makes a decision to go to China with Suyuan's hope in order to do something for her. After that, Suyuan's history is told to Jingmei, she finds that she finally knows about her mother. As Tan writes, "I lay awake thinking about my mother's story, realizing how much I have never known about her, grieving that my sisters and I had both lost her" (Tan 286). From misunderstanding to understanding, Jing-mei's Chinese blood is recalled by her meeting her sisters for Suyuan in the end of the novel, and the gap between them no longer exists. "Perhaps her name is symbolic of her confusion: she is the only daughter with both a Chinese and an American name. As she recalls life with her mother, June relates that she is constantly told by her mother, Suyuan Woo, that she does not try and therefore cannot achieve success" (Bomarito and Hunter Tan, Amy: General Commentary 7).

An-mei Hsu and Rose Hsu are a Chinese mother and an American daughter. An-mei is taught in the traditional Chinese way during her childhood, while she teaches her daughter in an opposite American way. But Rose turns out to be just like her grandmother! Because of the death of her little brother years ago, Rose becomes no longer confident but vulnerable. During the divorce of Rose and Ted, she makes no decisions herself, even doesn't realize her own worth as an assertive woman. "She is guilty of allowing her husband to mold her. He does not want her to be a partner in family decisions until he makes a mistake in his practice as a plastic surgeon. Then he complains that she is unable to make decisions: he is dissatisfied with his creation." (Bomarito and Hunter Tan, Amy: General Commentary 10). So An-mei tells her stories to Rose and encourages her to have her own ideas. She says to Rose, "You must think for yourself, what you must do. If someone tells you, then you are not trying" (Tan 130). Finally, Rose finds her lost self-confidence and decides not to give the house back to Ted because it is already part of her life. The courage she gets from her mother makes her truly assertive.

Lindo Jong and Waverly Jong are a Chinese mother and an American daughter. The war between them existed throughout Waverly's childhood into adult life, although she is a quite independent and intelligent woman. Actually Lindo is a mother with strong power which really affects Waverly a lot. For instance in the novel, "She wore a triumphant smile.’Strongest wind cannot be seen,' she said" (Tan 100). From playing chess to Waverly's fiancé, Lindo always criticizes her. "Much of the mothers' and daughters' conversations seem to be focused on debating, negotiating, and wandering between the two disparate cultural logics" (Bomarito and Hunter Tan, Amy: General Commentary 4). Waverly becomes a chess champion at 9 years old; Lindo often uses them to show off. Waverly then quits playing chess angrily. Years later Lindo makes Waverly marry a Chinese man who she doesn't love at all. She finally divorces him, but they already have a daughter! When Waverly finds a boyfriend on her own, Lindo criticizes him quite often, which causes their final war. At last, Lindo tells her daughter her real mind, and they clear the air. "Waverly confronts her mother after a dinner party and realizes that her mother has known all along about her relationship with Rich and has accepted him" (Telgen 4). Waverly and Rich plan a trip to China with Lindo' best wishes, showing the successful combining of American and Chinese culture.

China suffered the violence of Japanese occupation a lot during the Republican Era. Common people lived a really difficult life. Their homes were divided, and their lives were in great danger. Chinese armies decided to fight against Japanese, but unfortunately they were losing at the beginning. Suyuan's words in novel demonstrate that: "We knew the Japanese were winning, even when the newspapers said they were not. Every day, every hour, thousands of people poured into the city, crowding the sidewalks, looking for places to live"(Tan 21) and "And I knew he was telling me to run away from Kweilin. I knew what happened to officers and their families when the Japanese arrived" (Tan 25). The armies had strong morale, as one citation "Chinese forces were prepared to fight the Japanese to the death, and they often did" (Moss and Wilson 2). Suyuan then escapes from Kweilin to Chungking because of the cruel war, a journey so arduous that she catches a serious disease on the way and has to abandon her two twin babies! After Suyuan's death, her three friends in Joy Luck Club find her lost babies alive in China. Jing-mei goes to China to see them for reunion at the ending because the trip recalls the Chinese blood in her body and makes her, a Chinese American, know about the power of China.

What's more, "women in Republican China" is also an important subject to experience. Many places in Republican China still had the old-fashioned custom that women had a lower social status than men's; they had no choice but to suffer the unfair treatment. Women couldn't control their marriage or even their life but had to obey their parents. Lindo and Ying-ying also experience a tragic marriage in China. Lindo is made to marry a person she doesn't know at all and to be a servant in her husband's house, as she says in America, "That was how backward families in the country were. We were always the last to give up stupid old-fashioned customs" (Tan 51). Ying-ying is made to marry a lecher and then she gets pregnant. She also tells that story to Lena, "I did not understand until six months later when I was married to this man and he hissed drunkenly to me that he was ready to kai gwa'" (Tan 245). As Moss writes, "In marriage, a wife was often regarded 'as a sex object, as a labor power, or as a machine for producing sons… a thing, not a person'" (Moss and Wilson 3). The stories in the novel show that China was an underdeveloped country during that period with old-fashioned customs that hurt so many common women.

Because of the sad experience four mothers have in China, they all "escape" to America for a wonderful new life. For example, Suyuan thinks on her way to America, "Over there nobody will look down on her, because I will make her speak only perfect American English" (Tan 17). They really bring a lot of hopes for their new lives, jobs, and even their offspring. They each meet a job or language problem in their early immigrant lives. However, they all overcome the difficulties later and have sons and daughters who live in America. They expect a lot of them, but some of their children always disappoint them. "Interestingly, none of these mothers longs for her daughter to be Chinese following nothing but Chinese ways, for each woman has come to America with the intent of making a better life in which her family would know the fabled American successes" (Mistri 1). Jing-mei says, when they meet again in the Joy Luck Club after Suyuan's death, "And then it occurs to me. They are frightened. In me, they see their own daughters, just as ignorant, just as unmindful of all the truths and hopes they have brought to America" (Tan 40). The mothers want their daughters to be people with both Chinese and American characters, but they all failed to do that. The daughters only have American mind, they even refuse to accept Chinese thoughts and language. Actually the goal is difficult to realize, and it causes the generation gap and cultural differences.

Amy Tan writes The Joy Luck Club with the emphasis on characterization and setting about a serious clash between Chinese culture and American culture, which causes many conflicts between the generation gap. The daughters are all at a loss on dealing with either immigrant identity or emotional problems, but the mothers help them to overcome the problems with hope, power and love. I learnt a lot after reading this excellent novel. Mother and daughter should understand each other in order not to cause a generation gap. And husband and wife should respect each other, because they may be mates through whole life. What's more, all of us should know the worth of ourselves, because everyone is the only one in this world. I want my paper to convey the idea of being positive to show love and hope to each other, which I think is one of the most important characters in the life to make a better world.