Literary Analysis of Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club
The Joy Luck Club is a compilation of eight women’s personal stories—four pairs of mothers and daughters—about their lives and the relationships they must learn to navigate across various cultures. These accounts are conveyed through the eyes of the women, based on the perspective of the mothers and daughters. The plot begins not long after the death of Suyuan Woo, a founding member of the social and investment club. Jing-mei is supposed to take her mother’s position in the club as a way to attain a balance. The most essential concepts discussed in this book are tradition and culture. The two groups of women addressed in the narrative are diametrically opposed in terms of how they see the world, one focused on the past through tradition and norms, and the other unaware of their cultural past and fully assimilated into the American way of life. As a consequence of their cultural and traditional roots, they must make a concerted effort to guarantee that their girls are exposed to the same things they were, thus creating a rift in their relationships and later bridging the cultural and traditional gaps amongst them.
Despite seeming to adjust well to their new circumstances, the mothers never entirely integrate their Chinese culture, rituals, expectations, or norms into their new American life as compared to their Americanized daughters. The mothers never get complete command of the English language, abandon their families’ traditions and habits, or forget that they were born in China. Their English-speaking daughters, on the other hand, were born, raised, and educated to consider themselves fully American, in a culture that is “too full to swallow any sorrow” (17). Their storylines concentrate around generational tensions, cultural misinterpretations, and other identity difficulties. Their mothers seem to be living in the past, according to their daughters. The daughters make no effort to hide their displeasure with their mothers’ tales about life in China because they are both outraged and afraid of their parents’ judgment. The mothers want the daughters to have the best termed as “swallowing more Coca-Cola than sorrow” (17). The mothers are seeking to educate their daughters about Chinese culture, but the girls are finding it difficult to balance their lives in America, particularly their jobs, with their mothers’ lofty and perplexing ambitions. As a consequence, moms and daughters have a sense of alienation from one another, leading to silence. A generational, sociological, and cultural status discrepancy that is difficult to overcome exacerbates the situation. The cultural boundaries between the women will not be broken until the daughters learn to listen to their moms’ experiences and understand how they relate to their own lives. Despite the fact that the ladies come from all cultures and have different ways of doing things, this is true.
Despite the fact that each tale in the novel has a distinct narrator, they all show how past events, traditions, cultures, or the relationship with any of these factors may influence the present. This supports the notion that a person’s traditions, past, background, and upbringing has a substantial impact on their cultural identity and worldview. Each narrator has a “moment when her identity becomes fixed forever” (64). Ying-ying’s life was formed by difficult childhoods, war, poverty, starvation, and, in her case, a single act of awful conduct as a youngster. She was the lone kid in a happy family where she grew up. Furthermore, three of the mothers married when still in their teenage years. Three of them were married to men who didn’t love them, and one of them married a great man who died in the war. One of the ladies had children with one of the dads from a prior marriage. Individual histories of the mothers are advantageous to their attempts to construct new lives in the United States to a greater or lesser degree. Each narrative is a powerful example of how past events continue to influence the present and to form a new culture that is fully founded on traditions and expectations. From a Chinese-American perspective, Lindo Jong admits that “these two things do not mix” in reference to American and Chinese cultures (254). Each mother’s Chinese ethnicity has an influence on her current life in the United States. Childhood has a tremendous influence on each daughter’s adult life, just as each mother’s past has on her daughter’s current, complicating the matter even further.
All of the parents’ stories had a few things in common: vivid recollections of growing up as a girl and young woman in China, perplexing tales about raising children in the United States, and almost terrifyingly high expectations for their daughters due to their cultural differences and expectations. Similarly, the daughters’ tales focus on how they failed to meet their moms’ expectations, how they were concerned about how Chinese culture would fit into their very American life, and how they had no clue of their mothers’ inner energy or deepest secrets. Several of the narrators highlight the difficulties they have while seeking to communicate their ideas and emotions with people from completely diverse backgrounds. Ying-ying feels like the separation of mother and daughter is too great, “I have watched her as though from another shore” (274). Because none of the daughters understand the language, no one in the family, including the daughters and parents, has any awareness of the culture. Furthermore, there are occasions when moms and daughters are unable to communicate with one another, making it difficult for both sides to understand the other’s perspective. Even if both the girls and their moms speak a little English and a little Chinese, communication will be challenging at times due to the need to translate words with very different intended and accepted meanings. There may be a few small misunderstandings as a result of this.
When the mothers relate to their daughters on the basis of their own lives, they are well aware that their insights are met with silence due to the differences in culture and upbringing. They continue to converse in the hopes that one of their words or ideas would strike a chord with one of their daughters, who will remember it and pass it on to her own daughter. Lindo Jong gives Waverly friendly parental advise despite acknowledging that fact that Waverly may “not understand where she comes from in a double cultural heritage” (49). Daughters are given their mothers’ tales as real gifts, soul sacrifices, and talismans in order to help the younger women tackle their challenges with the support of their mothers. These stories were hand-picked from the mothers’ immense archives of recollections. The mothers often conduct mental dialogues with their daughters, in which they develop questions, thoughts, and sentiments that they are unable to express orally owing to the cultural and generational differences.
In conclusion, the novel is a depiction of how culture, traditions, general gaps, and other features of an inter-generational relationship mesh together and diverge at the same time. The girls consider their moms to be dumb since they speak improper English. The moms, on the other hand, are furious with their daughters because they do not understand the cultural nuances of their language and have no plans to teach their own children about their Chinese ancestry. Throughout the story, characters repeatedly bring up Chinese concepts, only to learn the hard way that they must understand Chinese culture to appreciate its value. In a society where daughters and mothers have divergent life ideas, culture and tradition continue to clash.