Joy Luck Club Summary
A summary on The Joy Luck Club can be ordered from Paper Masters and can summarize the story, the character or the plot of the novel.
America has always presented the difficult dilemma of cultural assimilation verses the retention of the traditional heritage and values of its citizens that migrate from other countries. Amy Tan aptly and brilliantly presents this quandary in the novel the Joy Luck Club. In the following lament by Lindo Jong, the difficulty of the generation gap and cultural identity in America is clearly stated:
I wanted my children to have the best combinations: American circumstances and Chinese character. How could I Know that these things do not mix.
The Joy Luck Club focuses on a group, defined in sociological terms as an "aggregate of individuals having something in common." This octet, or group of eight women (mothers and daughters) deals together with the issues that face them concerning life in America, values, and other sociological aspects that both enrich and, in some cases, hinder their lives. The Joy Luck Club, as it deals primarily with women and the relationship between mother and daughter, presents a matriarchy. As readers focus on the lives of the following:
- Huang Tai Tai
The importance that these women place upon their relationships and the respect that is intended to grow between these women sets up a transplanted culture that is certainly a matriarchy.
The importance of identity is clearly established in The Joy Luck Club, as the foundation of the novel rests upon the formation of a way for Four Chinese women to come together in their new country of the United States to reminisce about the lives they had left behind in China and find comfort with one another for the "unspeakable tragedies" they had suffered during the cruel Japanese occupation of China and the Communist takeover of the country after the defeat of the Japanese. In a subtle way, the Joy Luck Club also helped the four women become assimilated to some degree in American society. And in helping them assimilate, it also played a role in the assimilation of their daughters into the society.
However, throughout the novel the need for greater communication to bridge the gap between two separate cultures of two entirely distinct countries is poignantly instilled in the readers mind. Both the mothers and daughters tend to speak into a void and not to each other. Thus the form of narrative used and the thematic point complement each other. Tan uses this method to move the reader through this negativity, to imagine a healthier response.
Bridges that exist between the mothers and daughters rest primarily in their common experiences of assimilation. For example, With her vignette opening the novel, Jing-mei Woo relates what her mother told her about how she came to establish the Joy Luck Club. The surviving women variously talk about their lives in China in a way which involves aspects of the traditional Chinese culture such as festivals, marriage ceremonies, meals, and raising children. In the vignettes by the three daughters of the original members and Jing-mei, these younger women relate experiences of theirs in assimilating into American society. In talking about their assimilation, these younger women often talk about the effects this had on their relationships with their mothers.
The aspect of Chinese culture that is at conflict in Amy Tan's novel is the manner of reinforcing societal expectations and proper behavior by cultivating feelings of shame and guilt. Tan's conclusion brings mother and daughter to see the healthy attitudes of both the old and the new in each culture.