Influences of the Past

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In the novel The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan portrays the effects of childhood events on the roles and attitudes of the present lives each character must face. Particularly, Lena St. Clair felt restricted by her mother as she shields her from the dangers of the outside world. Consequently, when Lena did face trouble, she was unable to fight back and saw evil in everything she saw. Furthermore, the constant conflict that arose from the male superiority in Ying-Ying’s marriage and her miscommunications with her husband influenced Lena’s present behavior. Instead of expressing her own concerns, Lena allows her husband to make major decisions. Influenced by her childhood experiences and the troubles of the marriage between her parents, Lena inherits a passive role in her relationship to Harold.
As a child, Lena was always kept away from strangers by her mother, fueling her curiosity and imagination. In order to keep the “bad man” from planting babies in Lena, her mother had barricaded the door to the basement and told her not to enter. However, Lena’s curiosity finally enabled her to pry open the door, but she fell into a dark chasm. When she is rescued by her mother, she said “…after that I began to see terrible things. I saw these things with my Chinese eyes, the part of me I got from my mother.” (103) Lena completely overlooked the warnings that were presented to her by an authority figure, her mom. Her mom constantly reminded her of the terrible events that could happen, but Lena felt she was so separated from the world she lived in that she became very curious. She wanted to see the world veiled by her mother’s restrictions, and even face danger she was always kept way from. As a result, she suffered the consequences of seeing everyth...

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...n't eat any of the ice cream he brings home every Friday evening.” (162) This shows that even as an adult, Lena still needs guidance as to where to go with her life. Without her mother’s visit, she may have never thought about how unfair their system of spending was. It also shows how they have miscommunications between them. Harold does not bring up Lena not eating any of the ice cream because Lena had never shared her story as child to him. Lena does not tell Harold that she hates ice cream because she believes she deserves this punishment for “killing” Arnold when she was a child.
Through the terrifying events she experienced as a child and her parents’ miscommunications, she begins to realize how her mother tried to protect her from the mistakes that she made. Lena does not truly accept this at first, but ultimately discovers that she should strive to do better.
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