The Role of Mothers and Mother-Daughter Relationships in the Joy Luck Club
How to laugh forever. ” To the mothers, the daughters are themselves reborn, a chance for the mothers to give them a better life than they had had in China.
No isolated or independent individuals existed outside of their proper and harmonious roles and relationships, such as fathers and sons or older brothers and younger brothers. None of these were equal to each other but existed as part of a hierarchy, and even in nature and the material world “one thing is associated with another by virtue of contrastive and hierarchical relations that sets it off from other things.” Thus the overall context of the philosophy of Confucius differed greatly from the Western philosophical tradition and cannot be simply or easily separated from its cultural and historical context (Carr, C., 2000). Confucius and the other classical Chinese thinkers, human beings were communal, collective and tied to various roles, including generals, scholars and kings. Within this philosophical and cultural system, “disorder is born from order; cowardice from courage; weakness from strength”, as much as the whole required the forces on yin and yang.” The best rulers and citizens should have all the Confucian virtues of patience, wisdom, loyalty, integrity, courage and discipline.
Cultural values clash as the American-born daughters want freedom from their mothers’ old-fashioned beliefs. Yet by the end, the daughters discover their overbearing mothers have always had their best interests at heart. Ying-ying’s daughter Lena tries to hide her impending divorce, but her mother wants to help her rediscover the “tiger side” of her Chinese identity, which fights and does not yield to sadness. Though initially ashamed to reveal such a failure to her mother, Lena realizes her mother fundamentally understands her decisions, as they share similar personal histories and values. As the standalone stories weave together in The Joy Luck Club, they expose how boundless maternal love can be, even when daughters misunderstand or undervalue it. As June meets her half-sisters for the first time in China, she feels her mother’s presence with them, dispelling any doubt about understanding her mother’s lifelong intentions. Though she cannot know every detail of her mother’s history, June preserves the lessons that Suyuan taught her as a child, and the deep love for family to share with her new half-sisters.
Carr, C. The Book of War. Modern Library Paperback, 2000.
Datesman, M.K. et al (2005). American Ways: An Introduction to American Culture, 3rd Edition. Pearson Longman, 2005.
The Joy Luck Club. Dir: W. Wang. Prod: Hollywood Pictures, 1993.