In The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan explores mother-daughter relationships, and at a lower level, relationships between friends, lovers, and even enemies. The mother-daughter relationships are most likely different aspects of Tan’s relationship with her mother, and perhaps some parts are entirely figments of her imagination. In this book, she presents the conflicting views and the stories of both sides, providing the reader–and ultimately, the characters–with an understanding of the mentalities of both mother and daughter, and why each one is the way she is.
The book is organized into four sections, two devoted to the mothers and two devoted to the daughters, with the exception of June. The first section, logically, is about the mothers’ childhoods in China, the period of time during which their personalities were molded, giving the reader a better sense of their “true” selves, since later in the book the daughters view their mothers in a different and unflattering light. Tan does this so the reader can see the stories behind both sides and so as not to judge either side unfairly. This section, titled Feathers From a Thousand Li Away, is aptly named, since it describes the heritage of the mothers in China, a legacy that they wished to bestow on their daughters, as the little story in the beginning signifies. For many years, the mothers did not tell their daughters their stories until they were sure that their wayward offspring would listen, and by then, it is almost too late to make them understand their heritage that their mothers left behind, long ago, when they left China.
The second and third sections are about the daughters’ lives, and the vignettes in each section trace their personality growth and development. Through the eyes of the daughters, we can also see the continuation of the mothers’ stories, how they learned to cope in America. In these sections, Amy Tan explores the difficulties in growing up as a Chinese-American and the problems assimilating into modern society. The Chinese-American daughters try their best to become “Americanized,” at the same time casting off their heritage while their mothers watch on, dismayed. Social pressures to become like everyone else, and not to be different are what motivate the daughters to resent their nationality. This was a greater problem for Chinese-American daughters that grew up in the 50’s, when it was not well accepted to be of an “ethnic” background.
Comparing the Theme of Abandonment in Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club and Kitchen God’s Wife
Theme of Abandonment in Kitchen God’s Wife and Joy Luck Club
One of the themes included in both The Kitchen God’s Wife and The Joy Luck Club is that of abandonment. In The Kitchen God’s Wife, the character of Winnie Louie is abandoned by her mother when she was a young child. In The Joy Luck Club, Suyuan Woo has to abandon her twin daughters on the road as she is escaping war-torn China.
In The Joy Luck Club, Suyuan Woo is forced to abandon her twin daughters at the side of the road in a desperate act to give them a chance to live. Throughout her life she is haunted by this memory:
When the road grew quiet, she tore open the lining of her dress, and stuffed jewelry under the shirt of one baby and money under the other. She reached into her pocket and drew out the photos of her father and mother, the picture of herself and her husband on their wedding day. And she wrote on the back of each the names of the babies and this same message: ‘Please care for these babies with the money and valuables provided. When it is safe to come, if you bring them to Shanghai, 9…