Communication Barriers Within The Joy Luck Club By Amy Tan

1123 words - 4 pages

In the novel The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, the mothers and daughters share relationships that are complex and unique. Besides being family, the women share hopes, fears and a culture that extends deep for some and not far for others. On the surface, a group that seemingly has so much in common is surprisingly lacking in understanding for the other generation. The communication between the characters is not always clear, mixed up by language and generational barriers as well as the "Americanized" daughters being unable, or unwilling, to listen fully to their Chinese mothers.The first barrier that seems to make life difficult for these women and in some cases, their spouses, is the language difference. Many of the daughters have a very slim grasp on the Chinese dialect of their mothers and in turn, some of the mothers struggle with English. In the case of the St.Clair family, the group is further splintered because Clifford, the husband of Ying-ying and father of Lena, has never learned fluent Chinese and Ying-ying has never learned fluent English, so the breakdown in communication starts with the parents and moves onto the children. When the mothers and daughters are able to communicate and make an attempt at finding common ground, their attempts are derailed by a lack of English words to substitute the meaning of Chinese words. Some of the phrases or lessons told by the mothers lose their meaning in a way because there is no English word that means the same as what they are trying to say in Chinese. An example of this is when June tries to understand the meaning of the Joy Luck Club's name. There appears to be no satisfying English explanation for the sentiment behind the idea of Joy Luck. It is tragic to watch some of the relationships fracture because of this type of communication barrier.The second barrier that hinders communication is their generation gap. The mothers were raised in different times with different expectations and they struggle to watch their daughters not conform to the same ways. The mothers were taught to be strong and silent, to take care of their families and to be good workers when asked to be by their husband or families. The daughters are from a more liberated mind set and they fail to grasp why their mothers continue to do things that they themselves would never consider doing. It is because of this gap in the generations that several of the mother's stories go unspoken to the daughters. It is not that the daughters fail to understand the stories but more such that the daughters will regard the stories as foolish or look down on their mothers because of what they have done in the past.The same is true for the daughters, but instead of stories, they are very unwilling to share parts of their lives for fear of their mothers' disapproval. Waverly wants to show her mother her apartment to help bring her mother to the realization that she and Rich are nearing marriage, but instead all her mother sees is negative things....

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