Influences Of The Past Essay

1401 words - 6 pages

In the novel The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan portrays the effects of childhood events on the roles and attitudes of the present lives each character must face. Particularly, Lena St. Clair felt restricted by her mother as she shields her from the dangers of the outside world. Consequently, when Lena did face trouble, she was unable to fight back and saw evil in everything she saw. Furthermore, the constant conflict that arose from the male superiority in Ying-Ying’s marriage and her miscommunications with her husband influenced Lena’s present behavior. Instead of expressing her own concerns, Lena allows her husband to make major decisions. Influenced by her childhood experiences and the troubles ...view middle of the document...

Ying-Ying had taught Lena a lesson on not only listening to those with experience, but also on being careful in the world outside of the protection of her mother, even when those dangers may seem insignificant. Ying-Ying’s extreme fearfulness also causes her to warn Lena about leaving grains of leftover rice in the bowl. She was told that her future husband would have one pock mark for every grain of rice she did not finish, so she wished death upon her cruel neighbor, Arnold. He was pockmarked and therefore Lena believed that he could be her future husband. When Arnold died of a rare measles virus, she thought it was caused by herself, but she said “…even when I can finally dismiss all of this as ridiculous, I still feel that somehow, for the most part, we deserve what we get. I didn't get Arnold. I got Harold.” (154) Lena confuses imaginary with reality, believing that somehow, her hatred for Arnold got him killed. However, her mother’s actual intentions are to coax Lena to finish the rice and not waste, relating to Ying-Ying’s hardships in China where every last bit of food was important. Additionally, the pock marks of Lena’s husband may not be physical pock marks, but metaphorical ones, as Lena eventually realizes with the help of her mother that Harold is not the perfect match for her.
During Ying-Ying’s relationship to her husband, they repeatedly had bouts of miscommunication and times where Clifford St. Clair made most of the familial decisions. Clifford St. Clair saved Ying-Ying from a horrible life in China, so they immigrated to the United States. He “proudly named her in her immigration papers: Betty St. Clair, crossing out her given name of Gu Ying-ying. And then he put down the wrong birthyear, 1916 instead of 1914…my mother lost her name and became a Dragon instead of a Tiger.” (104) Lena’s father had decided who Ying-Ying was going to be in America. Instead of putting her real name down, he puts an American name in an attempt to blend in with the new society surrounding them. Also, he puts down the wrong birth year, changing her from a Tiger to a Dragon. In Chinese culture, this was very significant because each animal represented certain values in the Chinese zodiac. The Tiger is associated with courage and power, while the Dragon usually leads itself, alone. Clifford’s attempt to connect Ying-Ying to American society reflects how she has become powerless. She has no friends or family to help her other than Clifford and most people around her speak English, a language foreign to her. After Lena was born, Clifford and Ying-Ying still did not communicate well, even when they taught a little of each other’s language. Therefore, Lena had to become the translator for her parents, but when her mother experienced a tragic miscarriage, she said, “I could not tell my father what she had said. He was so sad already with this empty...

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