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THE JOY LUCK CLUB: ONLINE NOTES / LITERARY ANALYSIS
This opening chapter is very significant, for it explains the meaning of the book’s title and introduces several of the themes. Jing-Mei explains how her mother, Suyuan, started the first Joy Luck Club in Kweilin, China. Then when she came to America in 1949, she began another Joy Luck Club in San Francisco. Although Jing-Mei knows little about the club, she states that the Chinese women who belong meet together to play mahjong, gossip, share their oriental culture, and support one another.
Key themes are also established in this chapter. The first is the pain caused by lack of communication. Jing-Mei and her mother, Suyuan, often have difficulty communicating. Being very traditional, Suyuan is extremely proud of her Chinese heritage and fights to keep it in place. Jing-Mei, born and raised in America, does not understand or care about the old customs and is embarrassed by her mother’s traditionalism and somber attitude. She thinks of herself as American and adopts the culture that surrounds her. The differences between mother and daughter make it hard for them to really communicate. Jing-Mei cannot understand the suffering her mother has endured; and Suyuan cannot understand the frivolity of Jing-Mei. When Suyuan finally tells her daughter about the twin daughters that she abandoned in China, Jing-Mei is completely shocked.
The theme of lack of communication is developed throughout the novel. Each of the four mothers and daughters has difficulty really talking to and understanding one another. In addition, Amy Tan had the same problem with her mother, Daisy; their worlds were so different, it was difficult for them to really communicate. Like Suyuan, Daisy Tan also intentionally withholds information from her daughter. It is not until they are preparing to move to Switzerland that Daisy tells Amy that she has left three daughters behind in China. Amy is completely surprised at the news, just like Jing-Mei. In addition, Daisy has also suffered greatly in life, just like Suyuan, and Amy has trouble relating to her mother’s past, just like Jing-Mei.
Suffering is another key theme of the novel. The Joy Luck Club was first started in Kweilin, China, to keep the women from thinking about the horrors of war surrounding them. It is, in essence, a club formed out of suffering. When Suyuan starts the second club in San Francisco, the women she seeks as members have all endured suffering, just like she. As a result, there is an immediate bond between them, and a willingness to share with one another.
The Joy Luck Club is very important to Suyuan. It is not surprising that after Suyuan’s death, her husband asks Jing-Mei to take the place of her mother at the club. While attending the meetings, Jing-Mei learns many things about her mother and the other Chinese women. She also sees the closeness of the members. When they learn that Suyuan’s lost daughters have been located, they give Jing-Mei the money to travel to China to meet them, for they know this is what Suyuan would want.
This section also begins to develop some of the key characters of the book.
It becomes obvious that Suyuan and her daughter are different in their
nature and temperament. Suyuan is a very ambitious lady with an iron-will
and strong determination. She wants the best for her daughter and is determined
to make her succeed. Jing-Mei, however, lacks her mother’s determination
and falls short of her expectations. Suyuan is fiercely proud of her Chinese
heritage and struggles to make Jing-Mei understand and appreciate it.
Jing-Mei, however, simply wants to be accepted as an American and is embarrassed
by her oriental background. These differences intensify the communication
gap between mother and daughter.
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. 09 May 2017