Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Literature Analysis: The Joy Luck Club

1. The Joy Luck Club is written by Amy Tan, an American-Chinese woman. Both her parents were born and raised in China, but unlike them, Tan was brought to America by her parents and raised there. She adapted to the American culture while balancing her ancestral traditions. Tan’s personal journey is The Joy Luck Club premise. It contains sixteen interwoven stories of mothers and daughters that went through the same obstacles that Tan had endured: the conflict between American-raised daughters and their Chinese immigrant mothers. The story revolves around many relationships, but the main focal point is Jing-mei and her mother, Suyuan. Suyuan recently passed away, and Jing-mei has taken her mother’s place play mahjong in a weekly gathering her mother had organized in China and brought with her to San Francisco: the Joy Luck Club. Jing-mei is also on a mission to reunite with her long lost half-sisters who are back in China. Suyuan was forced to abandon the twins when fleeing from the invading Japanese during WWII. The first four sections of the books are told through the mothers’ point of view. They recall their own relationship with their mothers with perfect recollection and reveal that they are afraid that their own daughters do not have the same intense relationship that they had with their mothers. The next four sections are from the daughters’ point of view. They also recall upon their childhood memories with their mothers, putting to rest their mothers’ fear that they won’t treasure the mother-daughter bond. The Joy Luck Club represents the difficulties of the struggle to maintain the mother-daughter bond across cultural and generational gaps.

2. There were multiple themes within The Joy Luck Club, but the most significant one to me was cultural transition and ethnic identity. I am also from Chinese descent, which is part of the reason this book appealed to me so much. I too also feel a gap between my heritage; I may be American, but I am also Chinese. But then again, I’m neither, because to Americans I’m not “truly American”, but to the Chinese, I’m not “truly Chinese”. So what am I? This is exactly what the daughters are feeling in the book, they don’t feel truly anything. This is why the Joy Luck Club is such a safe-haven to them. They are all considered an outsider to the rest of the world, but in the club, they are connected to one another through their differences. The daughters are genetically Chinese, but aren’t true Chinese. Their mothers are “true Chinese” and so the gap between the two can put a strain on the relationship.

3. Tan’s tone throughout the book is evocative, memory-filled with happy thoughts and sometimes remorseful ones. Tan’s words are filled with emotions, whether those emotions are bitter or joyful, they bring out your sensitive side.

“It was only later that I discovered there was a serious flas with the American version. There were too many choices, so it was easy to get confused and pick the wrong thing.”

“I raced down the street, dashing between people, not looking back as my mother screamed shirlly ‘Meimei! Meimei!’ I fled down an alley, past dark, curtained shops and merchants washing grime off their windows.

“My breath came out like angry smoke. It was cold…The alley was quiet and I could see the yellow lights shiningg from our flat like two tiger’s eyes in the night.”

4. 1) Tone: Her tone moved you; I couldn’t not help but feel what the character I was reading about was feeling.

2) Diction: She used bold, emotion-charged words that would help convey the character’s feelings.

3) Syntax: Seeing the story from both the mothers’ and daughters’ view explained many of the missing links between the two. While you understood their problems and what they could do to change it, the characters struggled/thrived on.

4) Symbols: Tan used symbols such as the coy fish in the pond that the mother loved and the goldfish in the bowl that the daughter loved. It represented the gap that the two had and the cultural difference they had even though they were mother and daughter.

5) Imagery, specifically metaphors and similes: Like Tan’s tone, her imagery painted in vivid detail the sorrow, happiness or whatever emotion she was trying to portray.

“. . . . I wanted my children to have the best combination: American circumstances and Chinese character. How could I know these two things do not mix? I taught my daughter how American circumstances work. If you are born poor here, it’s no lasting shame. . . . In America, nobody says you have to keep the circumstances somebody else gives you. She learned these things, but I couldn’t teach her about Chinese character . . . How not to show your own thoughts, to put your feelings behind your face so you can take advantage of hidden opportunities. . . . Why Chinese thinking is best.”

A mother is best. A mother knows what is inside you,” she said. . . . “A psyche-atricks will only make you hulihudu, make you see heimongmong.” Back home, I thought about what she said. . . . These were words I had never thought about in English terms. I suppose the closest in meaning would be “confused” and “dark fog.”But really, the words mean much more than that. Maybe they can’t be easily translated because they refer to a sensation that only Chinese people have. . . .”

“I . . . looked in the mirror. . . . 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. . . . And then I draped the large embroidered red scarf over my face and covered these thoughts up. But underneath the scarf I still knew who I was. I made a promise to myself: I would always remember my parents’ wishes, but I would never forget myself."


  1. Questions:
    1. What is the Joy Luck Club?
    2. Are the sixteen different stories told separate from the others? Or are they connected with the other parts, just told from another character's point of view?
    3. Who are the significant characters?

    1. The characters in this novel feel a cultural gap, unsure of where they belong; in "The Catcher in the Rye," Holden Caulfield felt alienated from the surrounding world.
    2. Both authors use symbols to represent the feeling of alienation. In "The Joy Luck Club," it was the goldfish; In "The Catcher in the Rye," it was Holden's hunting hat.
    3. Imagery is a strong literary technique used in both novels, helping to better help the reader understand the theme.

  2. First off major props for picking this novel its amazing and makes me cry. It would have been helpful to clarify to others what the "Joy Luck Club" actually is, but great job overall anyone can get a good understanding of the novel. Another major theme could be the difficult, but loving relationship between a mother and her daughter.