The movie has many major themes, but i will touch on the four i feel that are the most important and relevant to intercultural communications. The first theme, The American Dream is portrayed by the characters being immigrants to America searching for a better life, and is symbolised by the start of the movie with the dialogue; "A Chinese immigrant, when she lived in China, had bought a swan from a vendor who told her it was a duck who "stretched its neck in hopes of becoming a goose." The woman dreamed of having a daughter who, like the swan, "became more than what was hoped for." But when she arrived in America, the officials took the swan away from her. All she could save of it was a feather. She had a daughter, just as she hoped, who spoke only American English and lived a comfortable life. She wanted to give her daughter the swan feather, but only when she could explain its meaning "in perfect American English.""
The second theme, Love and Marriage, is also the bulk of the movie's plot. Almost all the mothers and daughters have had unhappy marriages, and this created a kind of common ground which they could relate to each other. The meaning of marriage also varies between the two generations, quite starkly in fact. For the mothers, marriages were permanent, but not based on love all the time, and in other to be happy, they usually undermine the marriage. For the daughters, the opposite is true, they find marriage to be the place in which they can be themselves, and they have a hard time finding their true love and themselves in the process. The only constant love in the movie is the love between the mothers and their daughters, however strained by cultural and generational differences their relationship became, the love was still there.
The third theme, Cultural Identity. In the movie, I find that the daughters have an internal crisis of identity, that they know they are not fully "American", and still have some "Chinese" in them. Even for the mothers, the same case can be made, they struggle with speaking English to their daughters, and they can no longer speak and converse with each other in Chinese because they are trying to fit into the American society where English is the dominant language. The daughters also struggle to live in freedom, an ideal that is close to American culture, but they still strive to please their mothers and live up to their standards and attain their approval, which is something close to Chinese culture.
The last theme i will touch on is Communication. I feel that this theme is the most important and outstanding as throughout the show, you can see communication as both a barrier and a stepping stone for the characters. Although in the movie most of the characters in the movie speak English, you find that the mothers actually have a hard time communicating with their daughters using English as a medium, and most of what they mean just goes unsaid and not understood. This is because some Chinese words are just impossible to translate into English. This causes the mothers to be viewed as uneducated when in fact they have vast pools of wisdom and knowledge. The daughters, having the ability to understand Chinese, allows them to eventually glean the wisdom of their mothers, and only after heart to heart talks with each other do they reconcile their differences. Communication is also seen in...