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Joy Luck Club – Literary Analysis

An A-?!?!? Why isnt it an A+?!? You have to do better or will just end up being an underachiver!! This is the usual comments many people like me hear from their mothers and fathers. The daughters in the novel The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan go through this kind of treatment to. This book shows many mother daughter relationships. The main characters consist of Lindo, Waverly, An-Mei, Suyuan, and Jing-Mei, also known as June. Lindo is mother to Waverly who is a very talented chess player.

Suyuan is mother to Jing-Mei, who is a forced piano player by her mother. The story starts off in a house where the everyone has gotten together to have a party because June is going to China to meet her two long lost sisters. Junes mother passed away and now June has to join the Joy Luck Club. As the story goes on the members tell stories of their lives. The tell of the hardships of their lifes, all of them about mother-daughter relationships and how the mothers compared them and expected to much of them.

When mothers compare and expect to much from their children disastrous consequences occur. Jing-Mei, the piano player in The Joy Luck Club, felt the most pressure from her mother, because her mother had to follow behind the word of the prodigy in town. ‘”Of course you can be a prodigy, too ‘” (141) Jing-Mei’s mother, Suyuan, tells her after receiving the news of Waverly, the chess prodigy. The expectations for Jing-Mei have heightened now that her mother’s friend’s daughter has been held in such a spotlight, as to be called a prodigy.

Suyuan takes it upon herself to make her daughter rise above the accomplishments of her peers, and prove to the mothers their family is high in the running competition, whether Jing-Mei approves or disapproves. Suyuan decides that with piano lessons she and her daughter will rise above Lindo and Waverly. Jing-Mei only sees tedious lessons and hours of practice, but her mother envisions proudly sharing success stories between friends, comparing and convincing other mothers that her daughter was the best.

Every detail and aspect of their lives were picked out and compared and for the one daughter that lost these comparisons, a lowered self-image was the result. Jing-Mei never believed in herself, because she felt that since her childhood she had failed her mother. “In the years that followed, I failed her so many times, each time asserting my own will, my right to fall short of expectations. I didn’t get straight A’s. I didn’t become class president. I didn’t get in to Stanford. I dropped out of college.

For unlike my mother, I did not believe I could be anything I wanted to be. I could only be me” (155-156). For the mothers this competitive nature was meant to build confidence and secure the success of their daughter, for the weaker and less confident personality, like Jing-Mei’s, the inability to come out on top, effected her self-image and her capabilities for her success. It is her childhood failures that molded her adult life, she never won as a child and it became the same when she was an adult.

Waverly, the chess player, also felt the pressure that her mother put on her. All day she play chess. All day I have no time do nothing but dust off her winnings. (148) Ever since June and Waverly were babies their mothers have been comparing them. Each mother tries to find something good about their daughter to brag about. Although this can go to far. .. Why dont you learn how to play chess yourself!!! screams Waverly at her mother Lindo. Waverlys mother loves to go out in public and brag about her daughter winning many chess tournaments.

She goes through stores saying this is my child Waverly, she is the chess champion. Waverly really does not like this, she feels very embarrassed. She does not like how her mother brags about her all the time. Her mother feels that through her daughter she can gain points in the Chinese community. Through the piano Jing-Mei carries the responsibility of not only her mother but the entire Woo family. Jing-Mei does not consider this as a privilege, but as an unwanted burden. I felt as though I had been sent to hell, was her remark after the suggestion of lessons (46).

The daughters opinions about lessons are not as enthusiastic as her mothers, but Jing-Mei must, as an act of a daughter, do as she is told. If Suyuan is successful in presenting her daughter as accomplished, then Jing-Mei will win favor from her mothers friends. If the other mothers feel they must try to transcend Jing-Meis accomplishment by suggesting their daughters to display their talent, like Suyuan did after hearing of Waverly, then Suyuan has met her goal. When a disappointing outcome of failure and disgust is given, the emotional trauma is not an event easily forgotten.

Often times the result ends in anger toward the mother and the feeling of rejection. Why cant you love me? Im not a genius! I cant play the piano. And even if I could I wouldnt go on TV if you paid me a million dollars! (146). Jing-Mei thinks that she only gets love from her mother with an accomplishment. Jing-Mei thinks different that her mother. China raised Suyuan who thinks that you should show off a talented daughter. While America raised Jing-Mei who is satisfied with herself without such an announcement of her achivements.

Amy Tan clearly suggests Chinese mothers rely on success to establish status. Other peoples thoughts determine their statue, and the mother will go to extremes to be accepted in the high flown Chinese community. Many times mothers want to show off their daughters accomplishments, and in doing so embarrass and anger the child without knowing so. Mothers should be aware of the childs thoughts and feelings. They should not just run about and brag about their daughters accomplishments just to gain points for their own social status.

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