The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan, is a powerful portrayal of four Chinese women and the lives of their children in America. The book discusses the conflicting cultures between the United States and China, and how men treat women throughout their lives. People living in the United States usually take for granted their roles as a male or female. The culture of each country shapes the treatment one receives based on the sex of the individual. There are obvious differences within the different cultures. These differences show themselves in the work force, the distinct tasks performed in the home, and the privileges one receives in society.
In the work force, the women of America hold many positions of importance. They are usually treated as equals with men and there are few jobs from which they are excluded. In China, women are expected to stay at home and are not permitted to be in a work force that is held exclusively for men. The women of America receive fair wages and have earned the right to work with men. In China, women are assigned the role of housewives and must stay at home to clean the house and raise the children. Women in America receive educations that will prepare them for the high paying jobs of a professional. The women in China are known for taking orders from their husbands.
Another feature that is found to be different in China from America is the different roles women take in the home. The author explains that a Chinese woman is expected to be a good wife for her chosen husband. Girls are promised at an early age to a man. The story “The Red Candle” shows an arranged marriage where the author sacrificed her life to fulfill her parents’ promise of marriage when she was only two years old. At the marriage ceremony the candle is lit at both ends and if neither end goes out it will be a successful marriage. Of course, the woman was the one held responsible for making the marriage a successful one. In an American marriage, each person is held accountable for the success of a marriage. There are no arranged marriages and no matchmakers as in the Chinese culture. Marriage is expected to be for love not to fulfill promises between families.
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Another difference reflected in the book is that the women in China have different privileges than men. In the story, Amy Tan, showed how women were not important enough to choose many things for themselves. They were given all the orders and were expected to follow them without question. They did not have choice in whom they married and whether they worked. Girls were also given to other families when they were young. A son could never go to another home to live. The women of America would never stand for this treatment. They are educated and make their own decisions.
Differences in the cultures of Chinese and American women are numerous. Lena St. Clair says it best when she talks about the equality she has with her coworker, Harold. This is not possible in China, however, it is expected in America. The women in China appear to accept their misery. The women in America make every effort to rise above a life that does not place them at equal level as a man.