In the Joy Luck Club, the author Amy Tan, focuses on mother-daughter relationships. She examines the lives of four women who emigrated from China, and the lives of four of their American-born daughters. The mothers: Suyuan Woo, An-Mei Hsu, Lindo Jong, and Ying-Ying St. Clair had all experienced some life-changing horror before coming to America, and this has forever tainted their perspective on how they want their children raised. The four daughters: Waverly, Lena, Rose, and Jing-Mei are all Americans. Even though they absorb some of the traditions of Chinese culture they are raised in America and American ideals and values. This inability to communicate and the clash between cultures create rifts between mothers and daughters.
The hardest problem communicating emerges between Suyuan and Jing-Mei. Suyuan is a very strong woman who lost everything she ever had in China: “her mother and father, her family home, her first husband, and two daughters, twin baby girls” (141). Yet she finds the strength to move on and still retains her traditional values. She remarries and has Jing-Mei and creates a new life for herself in America. She is the one who brings together three other women to form the Joy Luck Club. The rift is the greatest between Suyuan and June. Suyuan tries to force her daughter to be everything she could ever be. She sees the opportunities that America has to offer, and does not want to see her daughter throw those opportunities away. She wants the best for her daughter, and does not want Jing-Mei to ever let go of something she wants because it is too hard to achieve. “America is where all my mother’s hopes lay. . .There were so many ways for …
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…ght to America” (31). The trip she makes finally helps her to understand just where her mother was coming from, why she was the way she was, and she began to forgive her for all the misunderstandings they had.
The rifts between mothers and daughters continue to separate them, but as the daughters get older they become more tolerant of their mothers. They learn they do not know everything about their mothers, and the courage their mothers showed during their lives is astounding. As they get older they learn they do not know everything, and that their mothers can still teach them much about life. They grow closer to their mothers and learn to be proud of their heritage and their culture. They acquire the wisdom of understanding, and that is the finest feeling to have in the world.
Tan, Amy. The Joy Luck Club. New York: Random House, 1989.
Comparing Minorities as Portrayed in My Name is Asher Lev, Joy Luck Club, and Black Like Me
Minorities in America as Portrayed in My Name is Asher Lev, Joy Luck Club, and Black Like Me
Conflicting values are a constant issue in society. In diverse civilizations minorities become out ruled by the majority. In Twentieth Century American culture there are many difficulties in existing as a minority. The books My Name is Asher Lev, by Chaim Potok, and the Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan, portray the aspect of being torn between two cultures as a conflict for today’s minorities. Black Like Me, by John Howard Griffin, examines the hardships for a minority by progressively revealing them. The events of the three authors’ lives reflect how they portray the common theme of the difficulties for a Twentieth Century minority.
My Name is Asher Lev demonstrates that the aspect of the protagonist being torn between two cultures is a difficulty for minorities in America. Asher Lev was torn between being an artist and his Jewish community. In the novel, Potok describes in detail the “feelings, dilemmas and questions [minorities] bump into while trying to obey their traditions and their passions at the same time” (Chaim). The main character, Asher Lev, chooses to be an artist and winds up having to separate himself from his life. He explains, “I am a traitor, an apostate, a self-hater, an inflicter of shame upon my family, my friends, my people; also I am a mocker of ideas sacred to Christians” (Potok 1). By choosing the life of an artist, Asher faces a life of continuous pain due to betrayal to his family. The protagonist’s painting of the Brooklyn Crucifixion “raises disturbing questions about anti-Semitism, conflict between Christians and Jews, and the tension between artistic conventions and religious imperatives” (My Name is Asher Lev 2877). It contradicted everything his family had raised him to believe in. He never fits into society since he defies his people and mocks the majority in this painting. Asher describes how his double culture life is doomed. “Asher Lev . . . was the child of the Master of the Universe and the Other Side. Asher Lev paints good pictures and hurts people he loves” (Potok 348). Asher moves from the religious to the secular world in the course of the novel. This is because Potok’s novels “assume the impossibility of existing in both the religious and secular spheres” (“Potok, Chaim” 339).