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The Roles Of Culture, Mothers, And Daughters In Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club

1340 words - 5 pages

    "A mother is best. A mother knows what is inside of you," said An-Mei Hsu to her daughter Rose (188). And this is true for all four of the mothers in the Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan. Unfortunately it was much more complicated than that, because the daughters had minds of their own, to a certain extent, minds that were part American. "The emphasis on honor, obedience, and loyalty among women are immense in this novel" (The Joy Luck Club: An Overview). In America, these characteristics were not emphasized nearly as much – and that is what caused tension between mother and daughter.

    The Joy Luck Club was founded by Suyuan Woo, and when she passed away, the Club looked to her daughter Jing-Mei to replace her. Suyuan was a very strong-willed woman who had suffered many hardships. In the process of fleeing from the invading Japanese, she had to abandon her two babies from her first husband. Things like that are what caused her to be so strong, but her daughter was doubtful in her ability to fill the role her mother once played.

    Jing-Mei brought much hope to her mother.  Suyuan was very critical of the people around her, so she was especially critical of her daughter. Once, Jing-Mei confronted her about being so critical, saying "people rise to other people’s expectations" (31). Suyuan replayed to her daughter, "That’s the trouble, you never rise. Lazy to get up. Lazy to rise to expectations" (31). And that was the basis of the mother-daughter relationship between Suyuan and Jing-Mei. Suyuan always had very high expectations for her daughter – wanting her to be a child prodigy. She would give Jing-Mei tests on things she would read in magazines, like knowing the capitals of the states or multiplying numbers. Jing-Mei eventually got fed up with the tests, deciding one night that she would never let her mother change her. Suyuan’s expectations were shattered once again when her daughter failed to become successful at the piano. Jing-Mei was determined not to try anything her mother desired for her, wanting to put a stop to her "foolish pride." Jing-Mei was so busy trying to fail her mother, it eventually led her to believe that she could not rise to any expectations – "For unlike my mother, I did not believe I could be anything I wanted to be. I could only be me" (142).  Her mother shows her this again, later in her life at a family dinner.  Suyuan cooked crabs, and one had a missing leg.  As the plate went around, each person took the best one they saw, except Jing-Mei.  "Everyone else want best quality.  You thinking different," said Suyuan to her daughter (208).  Throughout her life, Jing-Mei believed that she could be no better than who she was.

    Instead of constantly "failing" her mother, Waverly Jong was in constant competition with Lindo Jong. Oddly enough, their mother-daughter relationship could be compared to a game -- a game based solely on strategy – chess. Waverly mastered the game at a very young age, and eventually...

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