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History, Culture And Identity Of Mothers And Daughters In Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club

1471 words - 6 pages

History, Culture and Identity of Mothers and Daughters in Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club

    Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club is a novel that deals with many controversial issues. These issues unfold in her stories about four Chinese mothers and their American raised daughters. The novel begins with the mothers talking about their own childhood’s and the relationship that they had with their mothers. Then it focuses on the daughters and how they were raised, then to the daughters current lives, and finally back to the mothers who finish their stories. Tan uses these mother-daughter relationships to describe conflicts of history, culture, and identity and how each of these themes are intertwined ...view middle of the document...

Their roles as women in China were also very different than their daughters’ roles as women in America. They were taught to be obedient and to listen to and respect their parents and their husbands. They do not understand why their daughters would want to disobey them, and their daughters do not understand why their mothers expect so much of them. What Jing-Mei doesn’t understand is that her mother just wants the best for her because she loves and cares about her. For example, when Jing-Mei Woo says that she will never be the kind of daughter that her mother, Suyaun wants her to be, her mother replies "Only two kinds of daughters…Those who are obedient and those who follow their own mind! Only one kind of daughter can live in this house. Obedient daughter!" (pg. 153). Suyaun is frustrated because she would have never acted the way Jing-Mei is acting, towards her own mother. Women in China could never act disobedient towards anyone, or else they would be disowned.

    With all the cultural clashes that the mothers and daughters are facing in The Joy Luck Club, it is hard for the characters to have a sense of identity. The daughters are torn between Chinese and American culture and are trying to figure out who they are. The daughters are also trying to figure out who their mothers are and how that affects them. The mothers have two lives, the ones they live in America and the ones that they left behind in China. There are many instances in the book where it is easy to see why some of the characters have a loss of identity. For example when An-Mei talks about her mother we never know her name because she is always referred to as "fourth wife". A person can not possibly have a sense of self when they are given a number. The mother-daughter pair that has the largest lack of identity is Ying-Ying and Lena St. Clair. Since she was a child Ying-Ying has had an identity problem. In The Moon Lady Ying-Ying falls into the water and when she is found nobody knows who she is, and her one wish is "to be found" (pg. 82). Her whole life people have mistaken her for someone she is not. St. Clair, her second husband has no idea of Ying-Ying’s past and how she was once very wealthy. He thinks that he "saved" her when he brought her back to America, where he changed her name and put down the wrong birth year on her immigration papers and she was declared a "Displaced Person" (pg. 105). A reoccurring theme here is that she always seems to loose part of herself when going over or through water. It is also apparent that when she was young, Ying-Ying did have a sense of self. She was wild and free and it was her gender that seemed to take away her identity in the beginning. Her mother and her Amah were always telling Ying-Ying to act more like a girl. "A girl can never ask only listen." (pg.68), said her Amah. And her mother said "But a girl should stand still" (pg.70). These rules made her lose her identity, because women were not supposed to be individuals. Lena...

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