There are numerous conditions in human life that mold people into who they presently are. A person’s identity and way of thinking are influenced greatly due to their family’s surroundings, and relationships they are involved in. In the novel, The Joy Luck Club, the characters are generic, in the sense that, although they are from different families, the problems and emotions experienced are similar. The daughters are in an on-going search to discover themselves, who they are and what they represent.
With their precious mother-daughter bonds, four immigrants are bewildered at American culture as they struggle to instill in their daughters remnants of their Chinese heritage. Throughout the course of the novel, the mystery of the mother-daughter relationship is revealed to the reader by various means. First, such a strong connection can only be the product of an essential, timeless, emotion called love: “She loved you very much, more than her own life” (Tan 29). Unfortunately, in Chinese culture, mothers rarely say “I love you” and find little to no time at all to provide for their daughter’s emotional needs.
Such attitudes occasionally lead the children to sense that “My mother did not treat me this way because she didn’t love me. She just had a hard time showing her love for me” (Tan 45). As well, the link is also nourished in other ways, such as the swift protection of a mother’s young: “She grabbed my hand back so fast that I knew at that instant how sorry she was that she had not protected me better” (Tan 111). There are other ways in which the mystery of the mother-daughter relationship is uncovered. Because of a mother’s enduring love, they often put up high expectations that are often hard to meet.
As well, in the case of Waverly and June, a mother’s love is expressed in the novel by proudly showing off: “From the time we were babies, our mothers compared the creases in our belly buttons, how shapely our earlobes were, how fast we healed when we scraped our knees… ” (Tan 64). In any case, every small act or gesture done out of deep love for one another, strengthens the bond, that is enkindled at birth. They are frightened. In me, they see their own daughters, just as ignorant, just as unmindful of all the truths and hopes they have brought to America.
They see daughters who grow up impatient when their mothers talk in Chinese, who think they are stupid when they explain things in fractured English. They see daughters who will bear grandchildren born without any connecting hope passed from generation to generation. (Tan 31) Culture greatly influences the youth of today as American circumstances considerably influenced the daughters of the novel. In some instances, the Western culture dominates as the mothers strive on, in its shadow: “… and because I remained quiet for so long now my daughter does not hear me.
She sits by her fancy swimming pool and hears her Sony Walkman, her cordless phone… ” (Tan 64). Ying-Ying ponders upon the fact that, “She follows my Chinese ways until she learned how to walk out the door by herself and go to school” (Tan 289). Because of heavy resentment on the mother’s part, in some instances, the American culture is frowned upon and is stereotyped as having “morbid thoughts” (Tan 105). Many problems, especially embarrassment, surface when the younger generation attempts to become absorbed into a new culture, while the parents insist on clinging to their old ways.
The daughters experience troubles while trying to cope with their immigrant parents. There is an obvious language barrier that may result in feelings, such as that of Jing-mei: “These kinds of explanations made me feel my mother and I spoke two different languages, which we did. I talked to her in English, she answered back in Chinese” (Tan 23). Often, the daughters feel ashamed. The people who embarrass them and whom they resent are their parents: “I wish you wouldn’t do that, telling everybody I’m your daughter” (Tan 101).
The young ladies later realize that it is childish to think that way, and they focus on the future, rather then on past mistakes. The children feel that their mothers nag constantly when moral issues are concerned, for example, in the case of a divorce. An-mei prefers that her daughter talks and works out her personal problems with her husband. If Rose’s husband leaves her, then ultimately she must resort to a divorce. Regardless of what the circumstances are, mothers are diligently looking out for the well being of their daughters: “… e’d do anything to warn me, to help me avoid some unknown danger” (Tan 108).
The mothers of the novel try their best to provide for their daughters, but this is taken for granted at times. Lindo explains at one point that “inside I am ashamed. I am ashamed she is ashamed. Because she is my daughter and I am proud of her, and I am her mother but she is not proud of me” (Tan 291). … but I couldn’t teach her about Chinese character. How to obey parents and listen to your mother’s mind… Why easy things are not worth pursuing. why Chinese thinking is best.
No, this kind of thinking didn’t stick to her. She was too busy chewing gum, blowing bubbles bigger than her cheeks. Only that kind of thinking stuck. (Tan 290) A mother’s hunger is to inject what is left of her way of life. Obedience is first and foremost amongst the mothers: “Only two kinds of daughters, those who are obedient and those who follow their own mind! Only one kind of daughter can live in this house. Obedient Daughter! ” (Tan 153). Materialistic needs are not worth pursuing but finding yourself is: “With all these things, I did not care. I had no spirit” (Tan 286).
Other times,in trying to instill what is left of the Chinese heritage, the American way of life is blended in, but alas, “I wanted my children to have the best combination: American circumstances and Chinese character. How could I know these two do not mix? ” (Tan 289). The characters of the novel, The Joy Luck Club, unravel the intricacies of combining a Chinese heritage with American circumstances and tell of the relationships between mothers and daughters. The strong bond, that is present amongst the characters, will infinitely outlast all obstacles.
From each generation, all of the women “are like stairs, one step after another, going up and down, but all going the same way” (Tan 241). There are advantages and disadvantages to growing up with American circumstances, as well as learning and obtaining Chinese character, but one must be chosen over the other to be free. “I think about two faces. I think about my intentions. Which one is American? Which one is Chinese? Which one is better? If you show one, you must always sacrificethe other” (Tan 304).