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Mother Daughter Conflict In Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club

2989 words - 12 pages

    We live in a mobile and global world with the development of the technology. Still America continues to be the symbol of the land of freedom and of opportunity. Arriving to America, the Chinese immigrants who come from a traditional, structured, old world struggle to find a balance in a modern and dynamic new world. In order to realize the American dream, the first generation of immigrants have to learn the language, acquire education, and assimilate into the dominant culture. They courageously leave the past behind except what they carry in their memory. Thus, immigrants often experience shock and resistance in dealing with the new world culture. This is especially true for the second generation Chinese-Americans who resist and are ashamed of their heritage. Amy Tan in The Joy Luck Club dramatizes this conflict which arises between the first and the second generations through sixteen stories of four mothers and four American-born daughters. Tan succeeds in showing the strength of the mother-daughter bond from China to America despite the cultural and linguistic differences between Chinese mothers and Chinese-Americans daughther through the immigrant narrative.

The Chinese culture is based on Confucius, whose teachings are more practical and ethical than religious. Confucius’ virtues include righteousness, propriety, integrity, and filial piety toward parents, living and dead. His teachings also emphasize obedience to the father figure, to the husband, and to the eldest son after the passing of the husband. Thus, the role of women is one of subordination to men. In a family the male figure maintains an absolute power over his familial matters. Whereas in America, gender does not have the same bearing on the cultural tradition. The values of a person is very much based on its own merit not what the tradition dictates how one should live its life (Liu Wu-Chi).

Both Tan and Maxine Hong Kingston recognize the difficulties faced by women in such a regimented society. Kingston in The Woman Warrior tells of the folk sayings that proclaimed the worthlessness of women, such as "[t]here’s not profit in raising girls. Better to raise geese than girls," or "[w]hen fishing for treasures in the flood, be careful not to pull in girls" (195,6). According to Anne P. Standley, "Kingston tells of her lifelong struggle to fashion an identity on her own terms and to draw sustenance from her Chinese culture while rejecting its sexist values" (165).

For her part, Tan in Joy Luck Club illustrates the cultural differences between these two conflicting generations by alternating the voices of the mothers with those of the daughters. Four mothers with a painful past in pre-1949 describe their struggles in China against traditional female roles and family domination. By coming to America they are bringing their hope for a better life which they try to instill into their children. At the start of the book, Jing-Mei sits in the seat for her deceased mother...

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