History, Culture and Identity of Mothers and Daughters in Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club

Powerful Essays
History, Culture and Identity of Mothers and Daughters in Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club

Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club is a novel that deals with many controversial issues. These issues unfold in her stories about four Chinese mothers and their American raised daughters. The novel begins with the mothers talking about their own childhood’s and the relationship that they had with their mothers. Then it focuses on the daughters and how they were raised, then to the daughters current lives, and finally back to the mothers who finish their stories. Tan uses these mother-daughter relationships to describe conflicts of history, culture, and identity and how each of these themes are intertwined with one another through the mothers and daughters.

The mothers and daughters not only experience a generation gap, but since the mothers were born in China and the daughters were born in America, they also experience a certain cultural gap. This leads to miscommunication and misunderstanding on both parts. To the mothers, their Chinese heritage is very meaningful to them and the Americanized daughters don’t always understand this. The daughters get embarrassed by their mothers’ broken English. For instance, at one point Lindo Jong says "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." (pg. 291). Lindo is hurt because her daughter Waverly, is talking to her like she is a child. Waverly does not do this on purpose, she just has a hard time understanding her mother and her background, like the other daughters in the book.

"Living with their traditional culture in American society, Chinese-American women suffer the prob...

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...ying to save their daughters from the cultural barriers, and identity crisis’ that they had to face. It is in listening to these stories that the daughters find their true identities and become the people that they really are. They realize that they do not have to look at their mothers’ as their opponents, but instead their equals. They accept and even honor the fact that they are the same as their mothers. The Joy Luck Club tells a strong and powerful story that shows the importance of history, culture, and identity in mother daughter relationships, and also in everyday life.

Works Cited

Do, Thuan Thi. Chinese-American Women in American Culture. 1992

Jokinen, Anniina. Anniina's Amy Tan Page. 1996

Tan, Amy. The Joy Luck Club. New York: Random House, 1989.
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