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Essay on Mother as Villain and Victim in Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club

Mother as Villain and Victim in Joy Luck Club

In The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan focuses on several mother-daughter relationships. One of the relationships explored is that between an immigrant Chinese mother and her American born daughter Jing-mei. The mother expects Jing-mei to be a prodigy child – while pursuing this dream she unintentionally creates a serious conflict between her and her daughter.

To fulfill her unrealistic expectations, the mother pushes Jing-mei to be the best in anything and everything. At first, the reader may perceive the mother as the villain in the story; however, the mother just wants her daughter to have the life that she never had. Jing-mei does not understand her intentions.

Jing-mei’s mother thought opportunity was everywhere in America, “America was where all my mother’s hopes lay” (Tan 1208). The mother lost everything when she moved from China to San Francisco in 1949. In China she lost her family, her spouse, and she had to abandon her twin baby girls (Tan 1208). This implies that her mother had a difficult life and wanted to start a new life in America.

Unfamiliar with the customs of America, she had been brought up in a strict Chinese culture. Her mother probably raised her the same way, and therefore, that is where she learned her parenting skills. The Chinese life is strict, more so than the American life, and that was the only way the mother knew how to raise her daughter. The mother seemed to be the villain in the story, but she was only trying to be the caring parent the best way she knew how. She only wanted her daughter to be the best, but a conflict started when the daughter failed to meet her expectations.

In the beginning Jing-mei, th…

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…he wanted to see her daughter become something better than what she had become. Instead of encouraging her daughter to become someone who she wanted to be, she ends up pushing her in the wrong direction. I think that Jing-mei finally realized why her mother did what she did. I agree with Ghymn when she states that “Jing-mei does care deeply what her mother thinks of her” (84). It is obvious that even though they were two kinds from two different cultures they still found forgiveness in the end.

Work Cited

Souris, Stephen. “‘Only Two Kinds of Daughters:'” Inter-Monologue Dialogicity in The Joy Luck Club.” Melus 19.2 (Summer 1994):99-123.

Tan, Amy. The Joy Luck Club. Vintage Contemporaries. New York: A Division of Random House, Inc. 1993.

Willard, Nancy. Asian American Women Writers. Ed. Harold Bloom. Chelsea House Publishers, Philadelphia 1997.

Search for Self in Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club

The Search for Self in The Joy Luck Club

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.

Works Cited

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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