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Achieving Understanding in Amy Tan's Joy Luck Club
In Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club the daughters are too young and naive to understand their mothers and the hardship they faced. But by the end on the novel the daughters are able to understand where their mothers came from through stories and experiences the mothers tell the daughters their background. This shows that the daughters overall understood the mothers better because through time they were able to experience some of the same conflicts giving them a better understanding.
While Jing-Mei Woo is only one of four young women whose stories integrate the novel, her story makes her seem to be the initial character, especially since her tale not only begins and ends the novel, but also strongly develops the theme and plot of the entire book. Her mother, Suyuan Woo was very concerned with people and things they lacked, "Something was always missing...always needed improvements...not in balance" (19). This reveals that Suyuan is lacking something herself and feels not good enough for her family. We later discover her past and the twin girls she left behind in China. This past life draws readers and makes the story more interesting but a little confusing at the same time. This past comes back to Jing-Mei when her mother dies and Jing-Mei begins to understand how hard it is to let go of the people you love, which makes her become more open, understanding and mature. She lost a mother she got to share her life with, but like her half sisters, they didn't understand their mother until she was gone to share the experience of being reunited. In a sense, her spirit was there to capture their happiness of finally meeting one another.
Although Waverly Jong is perceived in being an intelligent, ambitious, proud, and arrogant, she is constantly struggling with everything that happens in her life. Her unwillingness to adapt to change becomes a major conflict. "Bite back your tongue"(89) her mother's harshness on her while growing up may have caused her lack of self-confidence foiled but assurance. Not only that caused her to resent her mother but the way she introduced her to perfect strangers, "This is my daughter Waver-ly Jong"(101) just to tell people or make reference to the TIME article on Waverly cause her to become upset.
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Lena is ashamed of her mother, but, like Waverly, she knows she has learned a lot from her too. For Lena, however, the knowledge is almost entirely bad: her mother has taught her to be afraid, and to bend to other people's wishes. Lena hates these qualities in her mother, but she can't stop herself from adopting them. She finds herself being married to a man, Harold, who gives no credit to her for the help that made him a success. It's like he doesn't want her to amount to anything, "Harold explains, it would not seem fair to the other employees if he promoted me...even thought I am very good at what I do" (173). He makes seven times more than she does and yet they still split all the bills down the middle when clearly he should pay more since he not only makes more but they are a couple and things don't always have to be fifty-fifty. I find it unusual for a married couple to still be splitting things down the middle even though it's not necessarily fair. But this is showing how Lena's mother, Ying-ying's nursemaid tells her that girls should be meek and passive, so she begins to lose her sense of autonomous will. She finally realizes that this isn't the way to be when her daughter's marriage is a falling apart. " `I knew it would happen.' `Then why you don't stop it?' asked my mother" (181). Her mother is trying to give her daughter the strength to stand up for what she believes in. Lena does deserve a raise; she doesn't deserve to be with that creep. It will take Lena longer for her to understand her mother because her judgment is too clouded, but she understands that her mother is trying to tell her not to lose hope.
Rose Hsu Jordan used to feel against her mother, An-mei and was afraid of her. She wanted to keep her out of her life, and not so involved. "More than thirty-five years later, my mother still trying to make me listen... `You are getting too thin...you must eat more'" (208). She felt that her mother couldn't understand her and wouldn't listen. But when An-mei called her to tell her that the most important thing was standing up for herself, rather than saving her marriage, Rose began to feel closer to her. She also took the initiative and stood up to her husband Ted, "I'm staying here" (219). She finally had a dream about her mother that was not threatening, but rather friendly and it made her understand that her mother was always looking for her best interest.
These four girls all realize by the end of the story that their mothers were only trying to do what was best for them. Mothers make mistakes and so do daughters. This book has shown a culture evolving throughout the generations of family and how it is integrated in the American life. These girls had a hard time understanding where their mothers came from until history started repeating itself a little through the daughters. The daughters have learned to accept their mothers for their flaws and try their best to understand it from their mother's perspective. When Jing-Mei finally meets her sisters she is very happy... "We all see it: together we look like our mother. Her same eyes, her same mouth, ...at last, her long cherished wish" (332).