Many, if not all people, at one time or another in their lives resent their mothers. In this novel, The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan portrays four Chinese-American born daughter’s stories. Their trials and tribulations in dealing with their Chinese born mother’s, culture and beliefs in 20th century America are presented. Tan also portrays the flip side of how the mothers feel about their “Americanized” daughters. The Joy Luck Club has been on the New York Times best sellers list for nine months. The novel has also been made into a movie. Tan’s other novels reflect on Chinese culture, history, beliefs and Chinese families living in America, usually set in California. The Kitchen God’s Wife, is a novel about one woman who reflects back on her life in China. The Hundred Secret Senses portrays a woman from China who beholds “Yin eyes” and can see dead people. Both of these novels have also been on the best sellers list. The Kitchen God’s Wife has been the number one best seller, and The Hundred Secret Senses has been the national best seller. Tan’s newest novel is The Bonesetter’s Daughter. It is currently on the New York Times best sellers list.
In the novel, members of the Joy Luck Club are four old “aunties” who congregate regularly in San Francisco to play mah-jongg, eat Chinese food and talk about their children. When one of the members dies, her daughter, Jing-mei (June) Woo takes her mothers place in the club. June feels out of place with the “aunties” because of their differences in age and beliefs.
... Literature Amy Tan The Joy Luck Club The Joy Luck Club contain stories about conflicts between Chinese immigrant mothers and their American-raised daughters. The book ... the conflicts between Chinese immigrant mothers and their American-raised daughters. Soon after its publication in 1989, The Joy Luck Club garnered enthusiastic reviews ...
She is made uncomfortable by the older generation’s insistence on maintaining old customs and parochial habits, which she views as an impediment to breaking loose from her parents’ cultural gravity. What she yearns for is to lead an independent, modern and American life free of the burden of her parents’ Chineseness and the overweening hopes for their children that they can’t even “begin to express in their fragile English”. (Schell, 2)
June is embarrassed by her Chinese heritage and wants to be “American” and not have to deal with her parent’s Chinese culture. She is afraid of becoming her mother:
…I saw myself transforming like a werewolf, a mutant tag of DNA suddenly triggered, replicating itself insidiously into a syndrome, a cluster of telltale Chinese behaviors, all those things my mother did to embarrass me- haggling with store owners, pecking her mouth with a toothpick in public, being color-blind to the fact that lemon yellow and pale pink are not good combinations for winter clothes. (Tan. 306-307)
Even when the daughters were young their mothers embarrassed them.
My mother would proudly walk with me, visiting many shops, buying very little. “This is my daughter Wave-ly Jong,” she said to whoever looked her way. One day after we left a shop I said under my breath, “I wish you wouldn’t do that, telling everybody I’m your daughter.” My mother stopped walking. “Aii-ya. So shame be with mother?” I looked down. “It’s not that, it’s just so obvious. It’s just so embarrassing.”(Tan 101)
An example of a common Chinese belief used in the novel was the five elements (Monroe 74).
The five elements are wood, air, water, metal and earth, these elements are to be part of the core of a person. People are supposed to have equal parts of these elements to be perfect but there are unbalances (Simon. 1).
Rose Hsu Jordan recalls when her mother told her she was without wood:
My mother once told me why I was so confused all the time. She said I was without wood. Born without wood so that I listened to too many people. She knew this, because she had almost become this way. (Tan213)
Even though the mothers English is not perfect, the daughters take their mothers for granted and perhaps believe that because their mothers English is not perfect that they cannot speak for themselves.
... between Lindo and Waverly. Waverly finds her mother’s Chinese ways old fashioned and embarrassing. An example of this, is when Waverly ... significant aspect of the Joy Luck Club. Characteristics of each mother/daughter relationship relate to the four main themes of the novel ... of discovering identity is played on many times by Amy Tan through the relationship of Lindo and Waverly Jong. When Lindo ...
“How does she want it?” asked Mr. Rory. He thinks I do not understand English. “Ma how do you want it?” Why does my daughter think she is translating English for me? Before I can even speak my thoughts: “She wants a soft wave. We probably shouldn’t cut it too short. Otherwise it’ll be too tight for the wedding. She doesn’t want to look kinky or weird.”(Tan, 291)
Even though their Chinese mothers embarrass their daughters, the mothers realize that their daughters are ashamed of them, but the mothers still smile and hold their heads high even though they are also ashamed:
I smile. I use my American face. That’s the face Americans think is Chinese, the one they cannot understand. But inside I am becoming ashamed. I am ashamed she is ashamed. Because she is my daughter and I am proud of her, and I am her mother and she is not proud of me. (Tan, 261)
From the mother’s perspective, their daughters resent and ignore them. One mother laments how her daughter ignores her:
Because I remained quiet for so long now my daughter does not hear me. She sits by her fancy swimming pool and hears only her Sony Walkman, her cordless phone, her big, important husband asking her why they have charcoal and no lighter fluid. (Tan, 208)
Even though their daughter’s resent their mother’s superstitions and beliefs, the mothers beliefs are only products of what they were taught and what they saw in China. When Popo, An-Mei’s grandmother is sick and dying, An-Mei’s mother returns after losing her shou (respect).
She had lost face after turning from a respectable housewife into a wealthy merchant’s concubine. Losing face, in Confucian terms, means a loss of social standings (Monroe, 77).
An-Mei watches her cut a piece of skin off her arm to try to make a magic potion to heal the grandmother. This event leaves a lasting memory with An-Mei:
Even though I was young, I could see the pain of the flesh and worth of the pain. This is how a daughter honors her mother. It is shou so deep it is in the bones… (Tan, 41)
From this experience An-Mei saw how her mother revered and respected her grandmother so much that she cut her own arm to make a potion to heal Popo. As a result An-Mei saw one daughter’s actions to honor her mother so in the same token An-Mei believed that was how a daughter should honor her mother.
... very much alike the relationship the author, Amy Tan, had with her mother. Daisy ... wanted Amy to be perfect. She wanted her daughter to be a genious ... that mothers ty to implement a lot with their children, specially with their daughters. The relationship between Rose and An Mei is ...
In the end one daughter (June) realizes her resentment towards her mother and her Chinese culture. After hearing her mother’s story and other mother’s stories about their lives and their daughters, June realizes that she was not as different from her mother like she thought. June learns to embrace her mother’s beliefs and her own heritage as well as her mother’s memory. Even though her mother has died, June will never forget her.
“…your mother is in your bones…”(Tan 321)
Simon, Rain Five Elements Online Available
http://www.horoscopes.com/elements/html 26 April 2002
Monroe, Charles R. World Religions an Introduction. Amherst, Prometheus Books, 1995. 74,77
Schell, Orville. “Your Mother is in Your Bones” 19 March 1989. Online. Available
http://www.nytimes.com.htm 16 April 2002
Tan, Amy The Joy Luck Club New York, Ballantine books, 1989. 41, 101, 208,213, 261, 291, 306, 307, 321