Raymond Chandler, a fiction writer, once said, “The most durable thing in writing is style.” True, the style is often defined as one of the most important elements in writing. In Amy Tan’s novel, “The Joy Luck Club”, the style significantly contributes to the development of both the tone and the theme of the influences that a mother can have on her daughter. The author effectively portrays the somber tone and the theme by using a concise style of diction, images, details, language, sentence structure, point of view, and organization.
The author emphasizes the tone and the theme of the novel by using a variety of diction words that include repetition of words, archaic words, connotation, and abstract diction. Primarily, the usage of repetitive words reflects on the influences a mother has on her daughter and also on the melancholy tone. In the story, many incidents describe Ying-ying and her daughter, Lena, as “ghosts” and unseen. Ying-ying, after experiencing the pains of her first marriage, willingly gives up the soul that causes her so much pain and becomes a mortal ghost. Lena, having perhaps influences from the traditional Chinese views of her mother, Ying-ying, also experiences similar grieves in her marriage and eventually becomes “a ghost” and the shadow of her husband (Tan 177).
The repetition of words relate them together in a sense of lacking recognizability by others and how the daughter seems to act from the awareness of her mother’s behaviors; it also indicates the effect of the melancholy tone on the sorrows the characters experience and suffer.
Shopping is based on tribulations of a mother daughter relationship that are exposed during their annual shopping trip. Mrs. Dietrich is a middle aged woman whose marriage collapsed due to betrayal by her husband. Mrs. Dietrich's only outlet for giving and receiving love is through her seventeen year old daughter Nola, who she desperately longs to have an intimate relationship with. Mrs. Dietrich ...
In addition, Tan also uses an assortment of archaic words to demonstrate the theme and tone. Occurring in many places of the novel, the usage of early Chinese words illustrates the influences of the mothers to the daughters of growing up in a Chinese family; they are able to share a bond that enables them to understand the meanings of the Chinese words. Specifically, in the story of Rose Hsu, the mother depicts Rose as “hulihudu,” meaning that she appears confused in the situation of her marriage. The mother significantly influences her daughter by this word; Rose recognizes the meaning and finally speaks up to her marriage problems. By using this archaic word, the author provides us with the understanding of the somber tone occurring in the story to describe the catastrophic situation of the marriage and also on the theme of the influences the daughter receives.
Furthermore, the use of connotation offers insight on the tone of the novel. In Ying-ying’s story, the word tiger suggests a non-literal meaning of a double-sided characteristic: the gold side that “leaps with its fierce heart” and the black side, which “hid[es]…between trees…, waiting patiently for things to come” (Tan 282).
She does not learn to use her black side until the incident of her first marriage, which causes her numerous laments. This word seems to indicate the miseries that Ying-ying suffers through the use of her gold side at the wrong time, which adds onto the somber tone throughout the novel. Likewise, the usage of abstract diction furthermore proves the gloomy tone. Throughout the book, abstract words such as unlucky, forgotten, colorless, and terrible remind the characters of the unhappy lives they share and live in that also reflect on the tone of how somber the stories appear. Doubtlessly, the variety of diction words in the novel highlight the theme and the somber tone.
In addition, the uses of imageries throughout the novel illustrate the melancholy tone. In the story of An-mei’s childhood, she lives in her uncle’s house, which appears to have “cold hallways and tall stairs” (Tan 33).
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Her father’s painting on the wall makes him look “large, unsmiling…, unhappy to be so still on a wall” and his restless eyes seem to “follow[s] [her] around the house” (Tan 34).
Through these imagery pictures, the house seems to be bitter and saturnine, which perfectly demonstrates the tone of the novel. Similarly, in Lena’s story, the house appears unbalanced and the doorway seems as “a [strangled] neck” (Tan 112).
During the night, Lena hears shouts across the wall and also “whack! whack! whack!”, the sounds of killing (Tan 114).
The sight and sound imageries seem to indicate a lachrymose tone in Lena’s house. In general, these imageries provide a picture of melancholy, which achieves a somber tone of the novel.
Furthermore, the author explores the tone of the novel by providing specific details. In An-mei’s childhood story, the author chooses to describe the pain An-mei feels as the soup pours over her by providing details of the twinge. She describes it as “the kind of pain [specially] terrible that a little child should never remember it” and how it still remains “in [An-mei’s] skin’s memory” (Tan 39).
By depicting these details of the pain, Tan expresses the feeling of misery An-mei feels, which appends to the melancholy tone. Additionally, in the story of Ying-ying’s first marriage, the author presents explicit details of the emptiness Ying-ying feels by portraying details of her as “a tiger that neither pounce[s] nor lay[s] waiting between the trees” and “an unseen spirit” (Tan 285).
This emptiness Ying-ying feels seems to indicate the melancholy tone that appears noticeable in the novel. Clearly, the details Amy Tan chooses to describe in the novel seem to specify the somber tone.
Likewise, the language the author uses also clarifies the tone and the theme of the novel. In many positions in the novel, languages such as grief, despair, hate, and revenge reflect the dismal tone by creating an ambiance of misery. The author also inserts various Chinese words to further portray the influences that the mothers have on their daughters. Apparent in Rose’s divorce story, words such as “hulihudu” and “heimongmong” illustrate how the mother influences Rose. Rose’s mother says these words, which mean “confused” and “black fog”, to relate on the situation of Rose’s marriage by telling Rose what her marriage appears to do to her. Rose becomes influenced by her mother’s words as she realizes the feelings she has actually relates to confusion. Evidently, the language Amy Tan uses illustrates the tone and theme.
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Specifically, the sentence structure in the novel also appears to contribute to the development of the tone. The author uses broad, elaborate sentences to expose the hidden feelings within. Incidentally, in this sentence, “I also beg[in] to cry again, that this [is] our fate, to live like two turtles seeing the watery world together from the bottom of the little pond,” the complex structure of it gives the reader a sense of despair and pity, which adds to the distressing tone of the novel (Tan 244).
Apparent also in the same sentence, the author uses many commas to relay the sentence parts together in a way that emerges to contain more information describing the poignant affair; it essentially contributes to the melancholy tone of the story. Manifestly, the sentence structure perceptible in the novel adds to the tone.
Additionally, the point of view of the novel portrays the theme. Written in the first person point of view, the novel enables readers to acknowledge the feelings and thoughts of the narrators. In “The Joy Luck Club”, each of the various stories has a different narrator, which allows the reader to profoundly learn the feelings and thoughts of nearly all the characters. Incidentally, in Jing-mei’s story, as she and her long lost sisters reunite, she realizes “what part of [her] is Chinese…it is so obvious…it is [her] family” (Tan 331).
Before the trip to China, Jing-mei “vigorously denie[s] that she [has] any Chinese whatsoever below [her] skin” (Tan 306).
Through the trip, she recognizes the connection between she and her mother – they come from one family. Jing-mei finally becomes affected by her mother’s culture. Unmistakably, the point of view of the novel greatly impacts the theme of the mother’s infection on her daughter.
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Similarly, the organization of the novel also affects the theme expressed. Indeed, throughout the entire novel, ideas of the theme emerge through the organization method the author uses. Primarily, the novel appears expressed by four sections that include four stories each; every narrative also has a different mother or daughter who becomes the narrator. Before the stories of each section, a short vignette includes a story that would be the theme for the section. Through this style of organization, the readers can notice the similarities between the mothers and daughters, basing on the way they think and express ideas.
For instance, in the story of Lindo’s first marriage, she marries Tyan-yu and tries to think of a way to “escape this marriage without brwaking [her] promise to [her] family”; she seems swift in thinking and incredibly intelligent (Tan 59).
In the same way, her daughter, Waverly, appears to exist a genius in chess; she realizes her “ability to play chess [is] a gift…it [is] effortless…[she] [can] see things on the chessboard that other people [can] not” (Tan 187).
Patently, both Lindo and Waverly share a bond of astuteness; the mother influences her daughter by inheriting Waverly her clever brain. Likewise, Amy Tan uses organization of the novel as a method of expressing the theme.
In Amy Tan’s “The Joy Luck Club”, the author efficiently depicts the somber tone and the theme by using a succinct style of diction, images, details, language, sentence structure, point of view, and organization. In all of these instances, the reader can see how the author’s style affects the tone and theme. The writer visibly shows her laconic style as effective to the development of the tone and theme.