What is the first thing you think of when you hear the term invisible strength? When I first heard it, all I could think about was a body-builder wearing the invisibility cloak from Harry Potter. After reading The Joy Luck Club however, I realize that Invisible strength is a trait that we should all strive to get. Invisible strength comes in many forms and does many things. In the Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan is trying to show that even in the worst of circumstances, people can gain control over their own lives with the motif of invisible strength. This motif develops within the Jong family between both Lindo and Waverly. Lindo first discovers invisible strength as a young girl living in China. She is forced into a marriage she does not want and learns that she has to remain strong. “I asked myself, What is true about a person? […] And then I realized it was the first time I could see the power of the wind. I couldn’t see the wind itself, but I could see it carried the water that filled the rivers and shaped the countryside.” (58) In this moment Lindo realizes the power of the wind, a recurring symbol of invisible strengths. The wind is invisible yet strong. This realization allows her to stay strong and push through her troubles. She does this while still remaining true to herself. “I wiped my eyes and looked in the mirror. I was surprised at what I saw. […] I was strong. I was pure. I had genuine thoughts inside that no one could see, that no one could ever take away from me. I was like the wind.” (58) Lindo’s realization that she is like the wind helps her recognize that she does not only have to push through her problems, she has to solve them. Amy Tan is showing that this ability to remain invisible and strong is needed for individuals to take control of their own lives. Later, in the story “Rules of the Game”, Waverly shows signs of having this same trait. “Lau Po, as he allowed me to call him, turned out to be a much better player than my brothers. I lost many games and many Life Savers. But over the weeks, with each diminishing roll of candies, I added new secrets.” (95) Though this passage is not as life altering as Lindo’s, it shows that when she loses many games of chess, she doesn’t quit. Waverly also starts to gain new tricks to use in chess, which is a game where people must be able to hide their future moves and appear invisible to win. This reveals that both mother and daughter are able to use their invisible strengths to persevere in tough times and learn how to improve their lives. After Lindo realizes that she is strong like the wind, she uses her new found strength to fix her problems. When Lindo is forced into her first marriage, her mother-in-law gives her a lot of gold jewelry. In Chinese culture, metal makes wives heavy, which in turn lets them settle down and be good housewives. However, once the mother-in-law believes the metal is making Lindo infertile, she takes it all away. Without the metal Lindo feels empowered. “And it was good news for me too. Because after the gold was removed from my body, I felt lighter, more free. They say this is what happens if you lack metal. You begin to think as an independent person. That day I started to think about how I would escape this marriage without breaking my promise to my family.” (63) Here, Lindo realizes that she needs to escape her marriage while also staying true to herself and her promise to her family. Lindo uses her invisible strengths to trick the mother-in-law into believing the marriage was doomed and that her son, Lindo’s husband, will die. Waverly also uses her invisible strength as a child to win chess games. “As I began to play, the boy disappeared, the color ran out of the room, and I saw only my white pieces and his black ones waiting on the other side. A light wind began blowing past my ears. It whispered secrets only I could hear. “Blow from the South,” it murmured. “The wind leaves no trail,” I saw a clear path, the traps to avoid.” (96) Multiple times in the book, invisible strength is referred to as the wind. The wind is unseen yet has power. Here, Waverly’s moves are unseen and being a nine year old girl makes her an unexpected opponent. This gives her power over her opponents and allows her to become a national chess champion. Amy Tan uses the hidden knowledge and tricks of the Jong family to show how someone is able to be strong and unexpected.
The Joy Luck Club stories about the Jong family are stories of strength. The girls need this strength to be where they want to in life. They both remain strong in tough times, notice things others do not and use it as hidden knowledge, and make people think they are weak when they actually wield power. Amy Tan shows that invisible strength is needed to let individuals gain control of their own lives.