Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club is a truly rich novel. The concept of "invisible strength" caught my interest in particular, so I have chosen to analyze the relationship between Lindo, her daughter Waverly and Waverly's boyfriend Rich. My questions are how Lindo achieved this strength, why she did it and how it effected herself, Waverly and Rich.
It is fundamental to the analysis to investigate Lindo's past in China. It is clear that she is a much loved child. "In my case, people could see my value. I looked and smelled like a precious buncake, sweet with a good clean color"(42). In my opinion, that kind of self-worth comes from unconditional love. This helps her when she is left at twelve by her family. She must stay with the Huangs, whose son she is promised to in marriage, even though it almost kills her. " I once sacrificed my life to keep my parents' promise"(41). In China, at the beginning of the 20th century, there was no escape from such a promise.
Lindo is devastated by her loss, the hard work and the prison-like life with the Huang family. At sixteen her much feared wedding day comes. As she dresses, she sees her reflection in the mirror. She suddenly becomes aware of her own strength. "I would always remember my parents' wishes, but I would never forget myself "(51). This is a defining moment. She regains her lost self-worth and never loses it again. When a candle ceremony is performed to ensure a lasting marriage, she secretely blows out her husband's flame, which is a strong act of rebellion. The marriage turns out to be a disaster and Mrs Huang is very displeased with the lack of grandchildren. After a while Lindo develops an escape plan; to make the Huangs believe that the dead...
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...ina, to be her own person, is what she is ultimately denying Waverly. "And I think, How can she be her own person? When did I give her up?"(253). She has taught Waverly the art of invisible strength, but she does not allow her to use it.
Lindo has fought an entire misogynic culture to gain strength and to free herself, but ends up with this unhealthy bond to her daughter. Waverly is equally bound to her mother and perceives the world in black or white, lost in a world of endless choices, forever wavering (!) between extremes, unable to love people for who they are. Rich is caught in the fire between the two, without even knowing it. The final conclusion is that mother and daughter are forever caught in a war with no winner. It may be the art of invisible strength, but it lacks wisdom.
Tan, Amy The Joy Luck Club Cambridge University Press 2004
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