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The Joy Luck Club Dialectical Journal*** I did 5 of the most important ones I felt needed to be explained and analyzed. I put shorter ones at the end***1.) “What will I say? What can I tell them about my mother? I don’t know anything. . . .” The aunties are looking at me as if I had become crazy right before their eyes. . . . And then it occurs to me. They are frightened. In me, they see their own daughters, just as ignorant. . . . They see daughters who grow impatient when their mothers talk in Chinese . . . who will bear grandchildren born without any connecting hope passed from generation to generation. (Amy Tan p.16)This quote sets one of the main ideas of the novel. The passage establishes Jing Mei Woo as a representative of the book’s younger generation, also known as the American-born daughters, who feel largely distanced from their Chinese identities their Chinese mothers. As Jing mei comes to accept this, she also shows a deep sympathy with the older generation. She comprehends and  their fears about their daughters, their fear at the idea that their hopes and dreams may not live on in modern American women for whom so many of the old values no longer have meaning.However, even while Jing mei is aware of the mother-daughter gap from both sides, this two sided perception ultimately serves not to widen the gap, but close it. Throughout the novel, Jing mei provides the connecting voice between the generations. She tells both the story of one daughter hoping for personal freedom, and the story of her mother who struggled to give her daughters the freedoms and choices that she never had. ^^^TEXT-TO-WORLD^^^ This quote is all to relatable in today’s world. In a world where we are connected in an instant, we can often seem light-years away from the ones we love. Growing up in the age of information, it’s very easy to get side tracked from what you’re supposed to do, which can lead to problems of time management. And today more than ever, it seems more appealing to the masses to go out and have fun, rather than the traditional American Culture of “Stay at home, and prepare food, clean the house, or do chores”. This mentality of “having fun” over responsibilities is very prevalent in today’s society. One of those responsibilities is the spread of culture, which is what the grandmothers were worried about in the novel. They were worried that their daughters would not uphold the traditions established by their families before them. However, culture changes as the people do. It is not so much a set of permanent beliefs, but it is more a temporary belief system that fits the people of the time period. For example, the people of the early 1800’s didn’t have near the amount of technology that we do now, so much of the things that machines do now, used to be done by people. And as we know, work requires time, which limited the amount of things people could do in a given time period. Nowadays, we have machines to take the load off of us, so we have more time to do what we want.   2.) I . . . looked in the mirror. . . . I was strong. I was pure. I had genuine thoughts inside that no one could see, that no one could ever take away from me. I was like the wind. . . . And then I draped the large embroidered red scarf over my face and covered these thoughts up. But underneath the scarf I still knew who I was. I made a promise to myself: I would always remember my parents’ wishes, but I would never forget myself. (Amy Tan p.48)In this quote from Lindo Jong’s story, The Red Candle, Lindo narrates how she first came to recognize her inner strength, a strength that her daughter will inherit and come to use in her chess matches. This strength gives Lindo the power to overcome the difficulties of the restrictive and patriarchal society forced upon her. She prepares for her arranged marriage. Marriage to a man she doesn’t love, knowing that to flee the marriage would be to go back on her parents’ promise to her husband’s family. Yet, she also makes a promise to herself, which she decides to honor. Lindo’s discovery of balancing responsibility to one’s parents and duty to oneself also links her to her daughter, and to all of the daughters mentioned throughout the book, who must learn to embrace their heritage and their elders without becoming passive and without giving up their own dreams. While the struggle for this balance often separates mother and daughter, it also brings them closer together, for all of them have felt this way at some point in their lives, whether or not the mothers choose to acknowledge it.The central event in this passage—Lindo’s realization of her value and covering it with her scarf—symbolizes another lesson. She listened to her own heart and maintained her strength even when she hid them away under the scarf. She knew that sometimes the strongest force is a hidden one. Although this concealment can also easily become a gesture of passivity, Lindo escapes the passivity that characterizes so many of the other female characters in The Joy Luck Club because she knows when to expose what she has hidden.^^^TEXT-TO-WORLD^^^ Lindo’s feeling in this quote is shared with many people on the planet. Each of them have their own feelings, emotions, and goals in life, but they are either oppressed because of the cultural norm, or because they are simply not in the best position to achieve their goal. The scarf in Lindo’s story symbolizes these ordeals in a perfect way. The scarf is the physical manifestation of this oppression, and Lindo is the bright, aspiring person trying to operate under the conditions of the opponents.3.) “A mother is best. A mother knows what is inside you,” she said. . . . “A psyche-atricks will only make you hulihudu, make you see heimongmong.” Back home, I thought about what she said. . . . These were words I had never thought about in English terms. I suppose the closest in meaning would be “confused” and “dark fog.”But really, the words mean much more than that. Maybe they can’t be easily translated because they refer to a sensation that only Chinese people have. . . . (Amy Tan p.106)In this quote from Rose Hsu Jordan’s story, Without Wood, Rose and her mother Anmei sit in church and talk about her visits to the psychiatrist. Questioning her daughter’s use of what Anmei feels is a strange and orthodox Western practice, Anmei asks Rose why she feels she must tell a psychiatrist, a complete stranger, about her marital struggles, when she refuses to trust her mother and talk to her about them.Examples of language barriers between the Chinese and American cultures are very frequent in this part of the novel, hence the title “American Translation.” The passage demonstrates the linguistic discrepancy. In the first instance, Anmei tries to pronounce “psychiatrist.” Yet her incorrect pronunciation could have been on purpose: by calling the doctor a “psyche-atricks,” she may be portraying him as someone who plays tricks on the psyche—someone not to be trusted. The second illustration of language barriers comes to light in Rose’s own meditations on the Chinese words her mother has used. She struggles to explain them and then wonders whether they can be “translated” into English at all. While you might be able to loosely translate them to English, she doubts whether the true feeling they embody can be felt by a non Chinese person. The question then becomes whether these problems of translation further separate the mothers from their daughters, leading to the scenario that Anmei complains of: one in which mother and daughter are unable to confide in each other or discuss their true feelings with one another.^^^TEXT-TO-SELF^^^ This part of the book reminds me of a time when my friend was scared to tell his mother that he had gotten detention for the third time in a month. The only reason he was getting detention however, was because this one kid was picking on him, and he kept retaliating. The kid would run away, and tell the teacher and when my friend would try to explain what actually transpired, the teacher wouldn’t believe him. And if he told his mom, they could have worked something out with the principal to get the kid in equal amounts of trouble. But because he was afraid of being considered a “tattletail” and he was afraid of what his mother would say, he didn’t trust in her ability to help him, regardless of what she thinks of him afterwards. He should have had trust in his mother enough to explain what was happening.4.) Her wisdom is like a bottomless pond. You throw stones in and they sink into the darkness and dissolve. Her eyes looking back do not reflect anything. I think this to myself even though I love my daughter. She and I have shared the same body. . . . But when she was born, she sprang from me like a slippery fish, and has been swimming away ever since. All her life, I have watched her as though from another shore. And now I must tell her everything about my past. It is the only way to . . . pull her to where she can be saved. (Amy Tan p.138)This quote comes from the story of Ying ying St. Clair’s Waiting Between the Trees. While Ying ying’s daughter Lena in a stressful, and obviously troubled marriage, Ying ying hates her daughter’s refusal to learn the Chinese ways of thinking, which Ying ying sees as wiser than the American way. Yet, she also acknowledges how her own passivity has led to her daughter’s spineless character, with no way for stand up for herself in a dysfunctional marriage. She knows that the only way to save her daughter is to tell the story of how when she gave into fate and other people’s wills, it led to discontent and even agony.The imagery here creates a very strong effect and can be felt throughout the remainder of the novel. Although Ying ying thinks of herself and her daughter as one human being, she also sees Lena as having “sprung away like a slippery fish that now exists on a distant shore” . This varies significantly with many of the mother-daughter pairs, as they view themselves as reflections of one another, but Ying ying looks into Lena’s eyes and sees not her reflection but a “bottomless pond.” What connects the two, their passive nature, is also what divides them.Ying ying’s idea that a story can save her daughter is not an the only occurrence in The Joy Luck Club. Throughout the book, the mothers emphasize the importance of stories not only as guides for their daughters and protection from pain, but also as ways to preserve their own memories and hopes, all while keeping their culture alive. 5.) . . . I wanted my children to have the best combination: American circumstances and Chinese character. How could I know these two things do not mix? I taught my daughter how American circumstances work. If you are born poor here, it’s no lasting shame. . . . In America, nobody says you have to keep the circumstances somebody else gives you. She learned these things, but I couldn’t teach her about Chinese character . . . How not to show your own thoughts, to put your feelings behind your face so you can take advantage of hidden opportunities. . . . Why Chinese thinking is best. (Amy Tan p.145)In this passage from Lindo Jong’s “Double Face” story, Lindo questions the mixed cultural identity she once wished for her daughter. She fears that Chinese identity has come to makeup how Waverly appears to others, while an American identity makes up most of her interior self. Lindo blames herself for Waverly’s dual nature. Yet, from Waverly’s own narrative, we know that Lindo’s fears are not completely justified: Waverly demonstrates a deep respect and concern for her Chinese identity. Waverly chalks up much of her talent in chess to her mother’s lessons in how “not to show her thoughts”.Just like Lindo’s fears, her views of the American and Chinese ways of life also appear idealized: she seems to somewhat believe in the “American Dream,” the notion of equal opportunity for all. At the same time, she says Chinese thinking is the best and speaks of the Chinese values of obedience and modesty as if they were an original Chinese idea.When Lindo fears the mixture of American and Chinese cultures, she is comparing the combination of two extremes. But In reality, each identity is already a little mixed: the American culture is not only about money and liberty, and the Chinese culture is not only about passivity, adherence, and self control. Nevertheless, the challenge of finding a way to combine aspects of both into one’s unique personality is a challenge faced not only by Waverly, but all of the daughters in the book—even, to some extent, by the mother characters, as they become accustomed to their lives in the United States.6.) “I can never remember things I didn’t understand in the first place.” (Amy Tan p.4)In the opening of The Joy Luck Club, Jing mei is trying to remember an expression her mother had used to describe a type of soup. She can’t remember it because she has never been able to grasp the subtleties in the Chinese language. This is another example of the way the difference in language and culture separate the mothers and daughters in the novel.7.) “You must peel off your skin, and that of your mother, and her mother before her.” (Amy Tan p.22) An mei’s mother cuts a chunk of her arm and puts it in soup for her own mother, Popo, who is very ill. An mei says daughters must symbolically tear away their own skin to see the love and hours of teaching of their mother beneath. All the mother-daughter pairs are connected, and the daughters need to honor that. But they also need to find their own strength, separate from their mothers.9.) “I wished to be found.” (Amy Tan p.43)Ying ying says this while recalling the Moon Festival where she was separated from her family. It is the wish she asks the mythical Moon Lady to grant. But it also applies to her life as an adult. Ying ying lost her tiger spirit during her ill-fated first marriage and didn’t reclaim it for fear she would suffer again. As she watches her daughter suffer in her own marriage, she wishes to resurrect her tiger spirit and her own strength to set her daughter free.10.) Chinese people do business, do medicine, do painting … We do torture. Best torture. (Amy Tan p.46)  Waverly Jong was teasing her mother when she brought up “Chinese torture,” but her mischief falls flat. Lindo does not understand how Americans could even consider Chinese torture barbaric, nor that her daughter is trying to get a laugh out of her. Her response is indicative of the language and cultural disconnect between the mothers and daughters in the book.11.) I have already experienced the worst. After this, there is no worst possible thing. (Amy Tan p.61)       Lena can’t stand to see her mother suffer after Ying ying failed pregnancy, and she wants to find a way to help her mother to “the other side”, or get over, grief. She imagines a universe in which a girl saves her mother by pulling her “through the wall” and back into life. The mother in the story realizes that she has “already experienced the worst.” This is clearly a reference to all of the mothers in the Joy Luck Club. They have all experienced the worst possible thing that could happen to a person—the loss of a marriage, a child, or even an entire family. Instead of letting grief rule the rest of their lives, the women learn to move forward.12.) I think now that fate is shaped half by expectation, half by inattention. (Amy Tan  Rose holds herself responsible for the death of her youngest brother, Bing, because she was supposed to be watching him and she didn’t. She doesn’t believe fate is an unchangeable destiny, but rather it’s something that happens if you fails to take control of it. Her desire to control, ironically, leads her to a inability to make decisions. After taking her own advice, she changes her fate by asserting herself during her divorce.13.) Only ask you be your best. For your sake.  As a child, Jing mei has bitterness towards her mother because she thinks Suyuan wants her to be the best when Suyuan really only wants her to try to be her best. This can be said for many of the clashes between the mothers and daughters in The Joy Luck Club. The mothers want their daughters to do well so they will succeed in life, but the daughters feel pressure to be better than everyone else and ultimately rebel because they feel as if their mothers simply want to control them.14.) In her hands, I always became the pawn. Throughout Waverly’s life Lindo Jong pushes Waverly to practice chess, then brags when Waverly does well, and even tries to take credit for Waverly’s success. Waverly can’t stand it. Instead of enjoying the game of chess, she focuses on her ongoing battle with her mother, which eventually ends her winning streak. She then quits the game altogether. It isn’t until Waverly is an adult that she realizes her mother was actually on her side all along.  14.) I was taught to desire nothing, to swallow other people’s misery, to eat my own bitterness. Anmei’s mother taught her the lesson many Chinese mothers imparted to their daughters: hide your feelings. Anmei tries this for a while, then sees how terribly the strategy works out for her mother, who commits suicide. She learns it is better to speak up and say what you want than to be inwardly miserable all the time. She tries to teach this to Rose, but the lesson doesn’t take.


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