The Joy Luck Club By Amy Tan

Essay, Research Paper

Tan, Amy. The Joy Luck Club. NY.:Ivybooks, 1989

In the past few weeks, I have been reading The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan. Suyuan Woo and her daughter June are the main characters mentioned in this essay. While reading the novel, Amy Tan has demonstrated the mother and daughters attempt to articulate their concerns of the past, present, and intentions of themselves which will affect them later on.

Suyuan and June’s character have a mother-daughter relationship confused with scattered conflict. However, it will ultimately be composed of deep love and commitment for one another. Most of the conflicts that Suyuan and June face are based on misunderstandings and negligence concerning each others opinions. What started the confliction was when Suyuan starts to tell her daughter June that she can be anything she wants to be. At first, June is especially excited about the dreams she will become. “In all my imaginings, I was filled with a sense that I would become perfect…my parents would adore me” (143). This shattered dream will start when Suyuan pushes June to be successful in areas such as dance, academics, trivia quizzes, and piano. After failing the tasks, June begins to feel resentful towards her mother to becoming a child prodigy. She starts to see her mothers hopes as expectations, and if June did not live up to this, she would feel like a complete failure. In one incident, during a talent show, June performs a piano piece filled with mistakes. Ultimately being embarrassed, June believed that her mother was ashamed of her. “…my mother’s expression was a quiet, blank look…” (143). However, June was wrong. Suyuan was not ashamed, but upset. She was upset because June did not care about having the best for herself. June did not have high hopes to be successful at anything which Suyuan had wished. June had failed because she did not try or care. Furthermore, Suyuan had felt that June did not appreciate what she had tried to provide for her daughter.

It is not until much later, after Suyuans death, will June realize how much her mother loved her. This major event is what opened June’s eyes to see the good intentions Suyuan has done for her. Also, this will be the time where June will know more about her mothers tragic past. June did not know Suyuan lost her two twin daughters and her family during the war. She never noticed that Suyuan still felt the painful memory of her losses. Until then, does June realize that Suyuan had always provided her with good intentions that she has always done for her in different ways. Such as learning how to play the piano. June did not realize that Suyuan was always proud of her daughter. In one incident, an acquaintance of June humiliates her by criticizing her work during a gathering. Suyuan attempts to display her pride in her daughter by giving June a jade pendent she always wore. This pendent symbolized lifes importance in which June needed to learn. Suyuan wanted June to know that her life has value and it will not show until her talents will discover that value. Because June did not realize this at the time, she fears she had not appreciated Suyuan enough. “Right after she died, I asked myself things that couldn’t be answered. This would force myself to grieve more…but now, I ask these questions because I want to know the answers” (320). Until now, does June realize that her mother had left everything in China in place of her hopes in the US for her family. She wanted the best for June. She loved June more than her own life, but it is not noticed until June’s questions were answered. June begins to understand her mother’s intentions in life. This has changed June’s life because she now notices that she has accomplished many things by doing small things to the best of her ability for herself and others. For instance, one of the small things she succeeds in is finding the answers to her unthinkable questions she always asks herself. Moreover, love between mother and daughter will prevail through the conflicts when Suyuans long cherished dream of uniting her twin daughters is fulfilled.

While most mother-daughter books portray the daughter’s struggles for identity, The Joy Luck Club has foregrounding voices of the mothers and daughters point of view. Through first person narratives and linguistic differences, Tan brings the mothers to the foreground. In other words, the heroines of the Joy Luck Club are the mothers such as Suyuan Woo for they try to help their daughters with life. In most American Literature, it is the mother who sits quietly in the background. On the other hand, Tan’s Joy Luck Club mothers speak assertively. They disagree with popular assumptions that the Chinese people are discreet and modest, and reject any stereotypical views. As of how powerful the Joy Luck Club was, Denise Chong from “In Quill and Quire” states, “These moving powerful stories share the irony, pain, and sorrow, of the imperfect ways in which mothers and daughters love each other.” The Joy Luck Club also has an authentic dialogue which distinguishes from most Chinese-American literature. The way she writes makes a difference and alters the way we understand the world and ourselves that will later on transcend topicality.

As a result, Suyuan and June’s problems were solved. The attempt to articulate their concerns of the past and present is resolved. June has a different emotion for her mother Suyuan although she is dead. The Joy Luck Club has detailed the generational and cultural differences between June and Suyuan which in later time, will June understand her mother.


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