The Joy Luck Club
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Amy Tans novel, The Joy Luck Club describes the lives of first and second generation Chinese families, particularly mothers and daughters. Surprisingly The Joy Luck Club and, The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts are very similar. They both talk of mothers and daughters in these books and try to find themselves culturally. Among the barriers that must be overcome are those of language, beliefs and customs.
The novel The Joy luck club starts with a story that right away suggests the importance of family and language. It is the tale of a hopeful young woman traveling from China to America to start a new life. She carries with her a swan, which she hopes to present to her American daughter someday. The language barrier is exposed when the womans good wishes for her future child are defined by the idea that this daughter will never know the hardships endured by her mother because she will be born in America and will “speak only perfect American English” (Tan 18). Though, things do not turn out exactly as planned for the young woman. Her lovely swan is confiscated by customs officials, and her treasured daughter, now an adult, does indeed speak only English and cannot understand her mother at all. Without a common language, “the expected loving link between mother and daughter is broken. Communication becomes impossible.” (Kim 37)
This story sets the stage for conflict between the Chinese mothers and their American daughters. The issue of the language barrier is a constant theme in both The Joy Luck Club and The Woman Warrior. The English language plays a major role in assimilating the new world. For Tan, there is a conflict between Chinese and English, in her real life and in her story. Tan herself stopped speaking Chinese at age five. Tans mother, Daisy, however, speaks “in a combination of English and Mandarin” (Cliff notes 6). Tan was taunted in high school for her mothers heavy Shanghai accent (Cliff notes 6). Because Daisy never became fluent in English, the language problem only escalated between the two women. (Cliff notes 6) Tan expresses this stress in her novel with the character Jing-mei. Jing-mei admits that she has trouble understanding her mothers meaning. “See daughters who grow impatient when their mothers talk in Chinese, who think they are stupid when they explain things in fractured English” (Tan 40). The stresses of a bilingual relationship