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The Role of Mothers and Mother-Daughter Relationships in the Joy Luck Club

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Mother-Daughter Relationships in Amy Tan’s Joy Luck Club In the Joy Luck Club, the author Amy Tan, focuses on mother-daughter relationships. She examines the lives of four women who emigrated from China, and the lives of four of their American-born daughters. The mothers: Suyuan Woo, An-Mei Hsu, Lindo Jong, and Ying-Ying St. Clair had all experienced some life-changing horror before coming to America, and this has forever tainted their perspective on how they want their children raised. The four daughters: Waverly, Lena, Rose, and Jing-Mei are all Americans. Even though they absorb some of the traditions of Chinese culture they are raised in America and American ideals and values.

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Chinese parents are very strict and typically demand more from their children — the best that the children can perform often isn’t satisfactory. Constantly feeling this tremendous parental pressure, many Chinese-American students feel as if they don’t belong in a group that is all Caucasian. They often grow up feeling rather out of place among non-Asian peers because vast difference between the Chinese and American cultures. Amy Tan does an excellent job of portraying this problem of assimilation through her characters. The second section of the book is named The Twenty-Six Malignant Gates because in this section, the problem of communication and lack of understanding between mothers and daughters is emphasized. This section is rife with mother-daughter conflicts, as the story in the beginning foreshadows. The third section is named American Translation because when the mothers give advice regarding their daughters’ problems, the daughters either take the advice to mean something other than the mothers had intended, or they simply ignore it.At the end of each vignette in this section, the daughters, finally heeding their mothers’ advice and exhortations, realize that their mothers had been right about everything all along. The fourth and final section wraps up the book with the mothers’ stories of what happened after their childhood. The title, Queen Mother of the Western Skies, signifies that the mothers were the Queen Mothers of the daughters, and that they were the mystical wise ones whom their daughters should have heeded. Here, the mothers conclude their stories and the daughters finally realized the pain, heartaches, and happiness of their forbears, and that they should have revered their mothers from the beginning as the traditional Chinese would have revered the Queen Mother. As the story in the beginning of the section suggests, the mothers watch as their daughters grow, feeling the desire to protect them, to teach them “how to lose your innocence but not your hope

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.

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The four daughters are completely American by Asian standards, speak perfect English and have assimilated into Western culture. None of them have even been to China, although June flies there to meet the twin daughters who had become separated from her during the war. All the parents in this film operate according to Confucian values, which are authoritarian, hierarchical and paternalistic, although the Americanized children often find them incomprehensible. China has never been a democracy in the Western sense, and women there were definitely not equal to men while children were required to honor, respect and obey their parents. Women’s function in life was domestic, to take care of the cooking, cleaning, child care and domestic tasks while men worked outside. Individualism and independence were not prized as in the U.S. but regarded as selfishness and purely negative qualities. In the U.S., however, most “believe that they must be self-reliant in order to keep their freedom”, while in China no one had any freedom to lose.1 An-mei Hsu and her daughter Rose were often in conflict over her American husband Ted Jordan, who was wealthy, and the fact that she regarded Rose as too weak and passive. Lindo Jong has a daughter named Waverly, who was a childhood chess prodigy until she and her mother had an argument, and then she lost the power to play. Lindo also dislikes her American boyfriend Rich, but regards Waverly as superficially successful. Suyuan Woo, the mother of June, was the founder of the club and after her daughter’s death she took her place, playing with her three older ‘aunties’ (Datesman, M.K. et al 2005). Ying-ying St. Clair, married to an American named Clifford, is also very passive and inert, as is her daughter Lena. Chinese culture and philosophy put the highest value on harmony (bo) between all elements and components. Unlike Christianity or the Greek Platonists, it started with the assumption “there is only one continuous concrete world that is the source and locus of all our experience.” No causes or ordering principles exited outside this known world, which was itself a living, organic and self-sustaining whole, which could be mastered and organized with the proper skill and knowledge

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.

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For the most part, the daughters of the Joy Luck Club members share stories about the difficulties of growing up with immigrant mothers

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.

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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.

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