Amy Tan's novel, The Joy Luck Club, presents a character with a divided self. One buried half of the self represents the mother, the mother's Chinese heritage, and the cold obedience she tries to instill in her daughter caused by her tragic past. The other half of the self represents the daughter, the daughter's American heritage, and the endless indignation she uses against her mother in ignorance of her mother's tragic past and her own ties to Chinese heritage.
The mother, Suyuan Woo, speaks broken English, shows no emotion, and wants her daughter to be the best, a prodigy. All of these characteristics can be attributed to her former life in China. Tan skillfully creates the dialogue for the mother so the reader can pick up on her broken English and her Chinese dialect. For example, the mother says, "Just like you. Not the best. Because you not trying" (Tan 1210). Not only does Tan's use of choppy English help establish a distinctiveness for the mother's character, but it also demonstrates a stern voice that is incapable of showing emotion.
The mother immigrated from China during the post-World War II era with many aspirations about America that made her push her daughter to be something she was not. According to Jing-mei, the daughter,
My mother believed you could be anything you wanted to be in America. America was where all my mother's hopes lay. She had come to San Francisco in 1949 after losing everything in China: her mother and father, her family home, her first husband, and two daughters, twin baby girls. (1208)
The mother's great losses in China and the cold obedience instilled in her from her childhood are what make Suyuan Woo l...
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... and daughters love each other and how their heritage can be influential in itself.
Dorris, Michael. "Mothers and Daughters." Contemporary Literary Criticism. Vol. 59. Ed. Roger Matuz. Detroit: Gale, 1990.
Schell, Orville. " 'Your Mother Is In Your Bones'." Contemporary Short Criticism. Vol. 59. Ed. Roger Matuz. Detroit: Gale, 1990.
Tan, Amy. "Two Kinds." The Harper Anthology of Fiction. Ed. Sylvan Barnet. New York: HarperCollins, 1991. 1208-1215.
Tavernise, Peter. "Fasting of the Heart: Mother-Tradition and Sacred Systems in Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club." America Online. Online. 15 Mar. 1998.
Willard, Nancy. "Tiger Spirits." Contemporary Short Criticism. Vol. 59. Ed. Roger Matuz. Detroit: Gale, 1990. 97-98.
Wang, Qun. The Joy Luck Club. Masterplots. 2nd ed. Vol. 6. Ed. Frank N. Magill. California: Salem Press, 1996. 3357.
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