Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club: A Look at the Concept of Double-Life

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Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club: A Look at the Concept of Double-Life

Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club is a narrative mosaic made up of the lives of four Chinese women and their Chinese American daughters. Because of its structure, the book can only loosely be called a novel. It is composed of sixteen stories and four vignettes, but like many novels, it has central characters who develop through the course of the plot. The daughters struggle with the complexities of modern life, including identity crises and troubled relationships, while the mothers reflect on past actions that were dictated by culture and circumstance. The lives of the older women are bound together through their similar situations as immigrants and their monthly mah-jongg games at Joy Luck Club meetings. Each of the stories is a first-person narration by one of the Joy Luck Club’s three mothers or four daughters. Each narrator tells two stories about her own life, except for Jing-mei (June) Woo, who stands in for her deceased mother, telling a total of four stories. The tales are arranged in four groups, with a vignette preceding each group. The first group is told by mothers (plus June), the second and third groups by daughters, and the fourth by mothers. Jing-mei’s final story, in which she learns her mother’s history, concludes the book. “The Joy Luck Club” is the title of both the novel and this story. Author Amy Tan introduces and explains the concept of “joy luck” by showing two different Joy Luck Clubs in action. The first Joy Luck Club, in Kweilin, shielded the women’s spirits against the harsh living conditions and constant threat of war. Suyuan had dreamed of visiting Kweilin, a place of great natural beauty, where she thought she would be perfectly happy. Instead, she and the other refugees lived with bad food, disease, overcrowding, and uncertainty. To combat their fear, the women played mah jong once a week. “Each week we could hope to be lucky. That hope was our only joy. And that’s how...
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