The Joy Luck Club

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Nicholas Petrignani
The Joy Luck Club
Amy Tan's novel The Joy Luck Club is a story of a monthly mah-jong gathering whose members consists of four Chinese mothers with American-born daughters. The novel is narrated by the four mothers and their daughters. At these meetings, the mothers share their concern of the growing rift between their daughters and Chinese customs. Each mother shares her story of her life in China and each daughter tells her story about her life in America. In The Joy Luck Club, the consistent conflict is formulated from the cultural and ideological clash between the mothers and daughters. Tensions arise out of the struggle to adapt to the American way of life when old customs are expected to be honored. Communications between both sides are limited, and from this, they all struggle with the expectations that they have for each other. Amy Tan's novel provides the reader the perspectives from two vastly different worlds - the conflicts the mothers faced and how the Chinese values conflict with American values in the lives of the daughters.

In Amy Tan's novel, the mother is shown struggling with adapting to the American way of life, while the daughters try and honor the old Chinese customs. The mothers constantly criticize their daughters and always expect their daughters to respect and honor their choice. The mothers relate their past to their daughter, so that they may realize the struggle they had faced. The mother's wish for the daughter to live a better life than the one she had back in China is revealed in the conversation between the Chinese woman and her swan on her journey to America in the novels first prologue. Her wish: "In America I will have a daughter just like me. But over there nobody will say her worth is measured by the loudness of her husband's belch. Over there nobody will look down on her, because I will make her speak only perfect English. And over there she will always be too full to swallow any sorrow!" this shows that the mother only wishes for her daughter to have a promising and not face any hardships (The Joy Luck Club, 17). The mother's prospects for her daughter are the very reason that tension arises between the mother and daughter. The Chinese way consists of not expressing one's desires, not speaking up, and not making choices. The American way consists of exercising choices and speaking up for oneself. This Chinese custom was vigorously expressed throughout the novel as the mothers told their stories about forced marriage, war experience, the love and longing for a mother, and sacrifice. All these were causes of not speaking up for themselves and making their lives the way they wanted. Shame was also another tradition that had to be followed. Control of the children (in Chinese and Japanese families) was maintained by nurturing feelings of shame and guilt. The mothers tried to teach their daughters of these ways and the culture of the Chinese people but resulted in a different manner than expected. The daughters see their lives in a different perspective. Regardless of shame and surrounding, the daughters would openly disrespect their mother and feel justified for doing so. They try and follow the American society, while struggling to maintain their Chinese heritage, through the heavy influence of their mothers. The daughters do not realize why their mothers pressure them so much. They feel that their mothers never look up to them or respect their choices. The American daughters are alien to Chinese culture as much as they are to their mother`s uncanny, Chinese ways of thinking.

Part of that society would be a Language barrier, which causes restriction of the mother understanding her daughter and vice versa. While the daughters, all born in America, entirely adapt to the customs and language of the new land, the immigrant mothers still hold onto those of China. The mothers capability of speaking English is limited to that of their...
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