Similar Roles of Mothers and Daughters in Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club

Similar Roles of Mothers and Daughters in Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club

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Similar Roles of Mothers and Daughters in Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club

         The Joy Luck Club, a novel by Amy Tan, is structured in an unusual way.  It is divided into four different sections.  Each section has four stories told by four different women.  In the first section all the mothers, in the Joy Luck Club, talk about their childhood.  In the next two sections the daughters talk about their childhood and their experiences through life.  In the last section the four mothers speak about the stories of when they were younger, around their daughters' age.  This novel explores countless topics.  Not only does it deal with gender identity and the relationships between Chinese-American cultures, but it also deals with mother daughter relationships.  Amy Tan shows us how mothers and daughters mirror each other. Every daughter in this novel hears about their mother's life and sees some comparisons to her own life.  "All women are daughters and must resolve the conflicts inherent in the mother/daughter relationship if they are to understand themselves an ultimately to establish their own identity". (Internet 1)

          No matter how old they get, mothers and daughters play similar roles.  Even though an individual may not consciously do things that their mothers have taught/ inherit from them, they still act the same in some respects. An example of this would be  GuYing-ying (Betty) St. Clair and Lena St. Clair.  Both of these characters tell their stories.  These stories, in ways, sound very similar to each other.  Ying-ying's story is called the Moon Lady.  In this story, Ying-ying learns a truth and in some ways becomes a different person.  As Ying-ying sat on the edge of the boat the firecrackers went off.  She fell off the boat and found herself lost  in a large body of water.  She is discovered in the water and is brought to shore where she finds her family.  Later she sees the moon lady and wants to make a wish.  The moon lady is similar to a shooting star.  You only get one wish and it  only appears once in a great while.  However, when she sees the moon lady she discovers something.  "I could see the face of the moon lady: shrunken cheeks, a broad oily nose, large glaring teeth, and red stained eyes.  A face so tires that she she wearily pulled off her hair, her long gown fell from her shoulders and as the secret wish fell from my lips, the moon lady looked at me and became a man" (83)   Ying-ying discovers that things aren't always what they appear to be.

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        For Lena this realization didn't come until later and happened in a different way.  Instead of a childhood realization, it is as an adult that she discovers that her marriage isn't what she thought it was.  When Lena's mother  (Ying-ying) comes to visit her, she is the one that enlightens Lena on her life.  Through her mother Lena learns that the marriage she is in is not the one she wants.  "Or maybe we shouldn't have gotten married in the first place. Maybe Harold is bad man. Maybe I've made him this way" (180)  This quote is parallel to the one that Ying-ying uses to describe her marriage to her first husband.  "This was a man so bad that even today I cannot speak his name.  Why did I marry this man?" (278)  Both these women ask themselves the same question.  They both realize that they are not happy.  "Children learn to act as their parents do before them.  The relationship between Ying-ying and St. Clair was superficial, so is that of Lena and Harold." (Internet 2)

          In Chinese culture a daughter is to be obedient and respectful to their parents.  "I was six when my mother taught me the art of invisible strength.  It was a strategy for winning arguments, respect from others, and eventually, though neither of us knew it at the time, chess games." (89)  Waverly Jong, the daughter of Lindo Jong, says this in her story Rules of the Game.  Waverly and Lindo are another mother daughter relationship, whom are so much like each other that they almost mirror each other.   Lindo is a very strong willed woman who would not disgrace her family  or her culture.  In The Red Candle, Lindo is betrothed to Tyan-yu a man/boy whom she doesn't love.  Lindo marries this man due to cultural traditions.  She feels like she isn't her self and needs to find a way out.  Lindo pretends to have a vision in which her ancestors come to her. They predict that  her marriage will fail and her husband will die  if they stay together.    This convinces her mother-in-law of the vision and gracefully gets out of the marriage without disgracing her family.  This shows how Lindo played by the rules and still got what she wanted.
         In the story Rules of the Game,  Waverly as well learns how to play by the rules.  The rules like how to be a Chinese-American daughter and on how to play chess.  waverly learned from a young age how to play the innocent role and still get what you want.  Her mother taught her, to get what she wants she has to manipulate the truth.  She is similar to her mother this way because her mother did the same when she manipulated the truth to get out of her marriage.

          Mother and daughter relationships are occasionally awkward and confusing.  However in the end every daughter turns out like their mother.  I am a similar product of my mother and my mothers mother.  My grandmother always took my mother out once a week and spent the whole day together. My mother then did the same with me and I hope for one day when I can do the same with my child.  Mothers and daughters don't always see eye to eye but at one time or another you will "become" your mother.  Amy Tan shows how this process happens.  It happens through life experiences.


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

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