Joy Luck Club

Every person comes to a point in their life when they begin to search for
themselves and their identity. Usually it is a long process and takes a long
time with many wrong turns along the way. Family, teachers, and friends all help
to develop a person into an individual and adult. Parents play the largest role
in evolving a person. Amy Tan, author of the Joy Luck Club, uses this theme in
her book. Four mothers have migrated to America from China because of their own
struggles. They all want their daughters to grow up successful and without any
of the hardships they went through. One mother, Suyuan, imparts her knowledge on
her daughter through stories. The American culture influences her daughter, Jing

Mei, to such a degree that it is hard for Jing Mei to understand her mother\'s
culture and life lessons. Yet it is not until Jing Mei realizes that the key to
understanding who her mother was and who she is lies in understanding her
mother\'s life. Jing Mei spends her American life trying to pull away from her

Chinese heritage, and therefore also ends up pulling away from her mother. Jing

Mei does not understand the culture and does not feel it is necessary to her
life. When she grows up it is not "fashionable" to be called by your

Chinese name (26). She doesnít use, understand, or remember the Chinese
expressions her mother did, claiming she "can never remember things [she]
didnít understand in the first place" (6). Jing Mei "begs" her
mother "to buy [her] a transistor radio", but her mother refuses when
she remembers something from her past, asking her daughter "Why do you
think you are missing something you never had?" (13) Instead of viewing the
situation from her mother\'s Chinese-influenced side, Jing Mei takes the American
materialistic viewpoint and "sulks in silence for an hour" (13). By
ignoring her mom and her mom\'s advice, Jing Mei is also ignoring some of the
similarities between her and her mother. Suyuan has also rejected some of the

Chinese traditions. Suyuan rejects the women-repressive Chinese traditions when
she tells her daughter that she "believed you could be anything you want to
be in America" (141). Suyuan continually tells Jing Mei her "Kweilin
story" as a child, the story of the origins of the Joy Luck Club as well as
her mother\'s past hardships. Yet despite the importance of the story and the
events constituting the story to Suyuan, Jing Mei "never thought [her]
mother\'s Kweilin story was anything but a Chinese fairy tale" (12). The
story would have the same meaning to Jing Mei as if she were being told the
story of Sleeping Beauty, or some other American bedtime story. When Jing Mei
recognizes the similarities between her mother and herself she begins to
understand not only her mother but herself as well. There are subtle connections
and likenesses from the beginning between Jing Mei and her mother that Jing Mei
does not see. The book commences with Jing Mei taking her mother\'s place at the
mah jong table, creating a similarity between them from the beginning. Suyuan
dies two months before the start of the book, and therefore is not able to tell
the stories. Jing Mei has learned and must tell her stories in her place,
forming another parallelism between mother and daughter. Because Suyuan is dead,

Jing Mei must act in place of her mother when she goes to meet her Chinese
sisters in China. Throughout the book Jing Mei takes the place of Suyuan,
showing she and her mother have a unique link even with the barrier of the
living world. Jing Mei finally begins to realize her identity and past when she
travels in place of her mother to China to meet her two twin sisters. Suyuan had
to make the hard decision to leave her twin babies on the side of the road in
hopes some kind stranger would take them in, that way she would not have to see
them die. Suyuan searches for her babies all through her life in America,
sending multitudes of letters; they finally get in touch with her two months
after she has died. Because her mother is not alive to meet her children, Jing

Mei takes her place and the trip enables her to finally recognize her Chinese
ancestry. The minute she enters China she "feels different" and can
realize that she is "becoming Chinese" (306). At fifteen Jing Mei
believed she was only as Chinese as her "Caucasian friends"