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Joy Luck Club Essay, Research Paper

Every person comes to a point in their life when they begin to search for

themselves and their identity. Usually it is a long process and takes a long

time with many wrong turns along the way. Family, teachers, and friends all help

to develop a person into an individual and adult. Parents play the largest role

in evolving a person. Amy Tan, author of the Joy Luck Club, uses this theme in

her book. Four mothers have migrated to America from China because of their own

struggles. They all want their daughters to grow up successful and without any

of the hardships they went through. One mother, Suyuan, imparts her knowledge on

her daughter through stories. The American culture influences her daughter, Jing

Mei, to such a degree that it is hard for Jing Mei to understand her mother’s

culture and life lessons. Yet it is not until Jing Mei realizes that the key to

understanding who her mother was and who she is lies in understanding her

mother’s life. Jing Mei spends her American life trying to pull away from her

Chinese heritage, and therefore also ends up pulling away from her mother. Jing

Mei does not understand the culture and does not feel it is necessary to her

life. When she grows up it is not "fashionable" to be called by your

Chinese name (26). She doesn?t use, understand, or remember the Chinese

expressions her mother did, claiming she "can never remember things [she]

didn?t understand in the first place" (6). Jing Mei "begs" her

mother "to buy [her] a transistor radio", but her mother refuses when

she remembers something from her past, asking her daughter "Why do you

think you are missing something you never had?" (13) Instead of viewing the

situation from her mother’s Chinese-influenced side, Jing Mei takes the American

materialistic viewpoint and "sulks in silence for an hour" (13). By

ignoring her mom and her mom’s advice, Jing Mei is also ignoring some of the

similarities between her and her mother. Suyuan has also rejected some of the

Chinese traditions. Suyuan rejects the women-repressive Chinese traditions when

she tells her daughter that she "believed you could be anything you want to

be in America" (141). Suyuan continually tells Jing Mei her "Kweilin

story" as a child, the story of the origins of the Joy Luck Club as well as

her mother’s past hardships. Yet despite the importance of the story and the

events constituting the story to Suyuan, Jing Mei "never thought [her]

mother’s Kweilin story was anything but a Chinese fairy tale" (12). The

story would have the same meaning to Jing Mei as if she were being told the

story of Sleeping Beauty, or some other American bedtime story. When Jing Mei

recognizes the similarities between her mother and herself she begins to

understand not only her mother but herself as well. There are subtle connections

and likenesses from the beginning between Jing Mei and her mother that Jing Mei

does not see. The book commences with Jing Mei taking her mother’s place at the

mah jong table, creating a similarity between them from the beginning. Suyuan

dies two months before the start of the book, and therefore is not able to tell

the stories. Jing Mei has learned and must tell her stories in her place,

forming another parallelism between mother and daughter. Because Suyuan is dead,

Jing Mei must act in place of her mother when she goes to meet her Chinese

sisters in China. Throughout the book Jing Mei takes the place of Suyuan,

showing she and her mother have a unique link even with the barrier of the

living world. Jing Mei finally begins to realize her identity and past when she

travels in place of her mother to China to meet her two twin sisters. Suyuan had

to make the hard decision to leave her twin babies on the side of the road in

hopes some kind stranger would take them in, that way she would not have to see

them die. Suyuan searches for her babies all through her life in America,

sending multitudes of letters; they finally get in touch with her two months

after she has died. Because her mother is not alive to meet her children, Jing

Mei takes her place and the trip enables her to finally recognize her Chinese

ancestry. The minute she enters China she "feels different" and can

realize that she is "becoming Chinese" (306). At fifteen Jing Mei

believed she was only as Chinese as her "Caucasian friends" (306). Yet

her mother counters thoughts, telling her: "Once you are born Chinese, you

cannot help but feel and think Chinese" (306). Once in China Jing Mei

decides her mother was right and she "has never really known what it meant

to be Chinese" (307). She has never understood her mother or her heritage.

This trip is the connecting link to understanding her life. She begins to feel

natural in China, thinking to herself on the train: "I am in China? It

feels right" (312). Jing Mei sees the landscape, the people, the histories,

and the families in China and sees where her mother was speaking from all of

those years. She knows a "little percent" of her mother know (15). It

becomes "obvious" to Jing Mei to see what "part of [her] is

Chinese"; it is "in her family, in her blood" (331). Jing Mei

finally realizes herself when she travels to China, trying to connect with her

mother and searching for her identity. The longer she stays in China, the more

connected Jing Mei feels to her mother, the more she feels at home, and the more

she understands what her mother was trying to teach her. At last when Jing Mei

embraces her sisters for the first time at the airport, and they look at the

Polaroid so view their similarities, Jing Mei realizes the part of her that is

Chinese is her family. She must embrace the memory of her dead mother to grasp

that part of her identity.

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