The Joy Luck Club Summary Sample

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The Joy Luck Club Summary Sample

What Lessons Can Mothers Learn from Their Daughters?


The Joy Luck Club, a novel by Amy Tan, is a reflection of a perennial problem related to a complex nature of the family inner relationship. Being particularly famous for works of literature dedicated to mother-daughter ties, the writer gives an opportunity to plunge into the hardships appearing as the consequence of the generation gap. After getting acquainted with the novel it becomes clear that persistent tension between daughters and mothers inevitably has edifying character.

The Search for Identification and Belonging

The characters of the works of literature revealing the problem of being “on the borderland,” including the heroines of the novel by Amy Tan, The Joy Luck Club, are in constant search for identification — they compare themselves to the representatives of the cultures, with which they are somehow connected and try to determine their belonging to one of them. Heroes created by Amy Tan are on the boundaries of the “two worlds” (Bloom). The notion of boundary is ambiguous: on the one hand, it separates; on the other hand, it connects. It is always a border between something, and hence both boundaries belong to both cultures. Consequently, I can conclude that it is impossible for the characters to fully belong to one of the worlds, one of the cultures; their inner world must contain reverberation of both of them. People between cultures instinctively play a role of the connecting bridge ( Yang and Pien).

The novel The Joy Luck Club presents two generations: mothers who had immigrated to America from China, and their daughters who were born and raised in the United States (Bloom). In my opinion, mothers can be attributed to the representatives of Chinese culture, with their natural rejection of American values and traditions (Yang and Pien). For example, Ying-ying St. Clair, one of the mothers who used to live in luxury and to have a servant, after she married an American, perceives the life this way: “I did servant’s tasks. I learned the Western ways. I tried to speak with a thick tongue. I raised a daughter, watching her from another shore. I accepted her American ways” (Tan). American way of life seems strange for mothers, in order to get used to it, they had to suppress their habits bred into them from birth, as well as to conceal their views on life so that to feel safe in a foreign culture: “All these years I kept my true nature hidden, running along like a small shadow so nobody could catch me” (Tan). The daughters are willing to self-identify themselves as representatives of American culture. They deliberately deny Chinese culture, deciding to choose the side of the majority.

It is only natural, that when the moment of necessity for the daughters to find their place in the society comes, mothers are attempting to teach them with the help of the profound life experience: “…my mother had studied at a famous nursing school in Shanghai, and she said she knew all about genetics…Once you are born Chinese, you cannot help but feel and think Chinese” (Tan). The history of their families and the chance to closer get to know their mothers make the daughters to begin to understand who they are and family is the value of primary importance: “And now I also see what part of me is Chinese. It is so obvious. It is my family. It is in our blood. After all these years, it can finally be let go” (Tan).

Thus, the daughters show their mothers that solidarity requires strength. These are the daughters who reveal the idea of that those were the right choices made by women from previous generations, no matter how painful they might be.


To crown it all, self-identification is the crucial problem, which is successfully solved in terms of mother-daughter interaction. The depicted characters are in a complex process of assimilation, which is a contradictory position in respect to the native culture, which means that there is no direct way for returning to their roots or complete rejection of them (Yang and Pien). The generation gap finally becomes the solution of the problem of being on the boundary between the cultures.

Works Cited

Bloom, Harold. Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club. Chelsea House Publishers, 2002.
Tan, Amy. The Joy Luck Club. Putnam’s, 1989.
Yang, Gene Luen, and Lark Pien. American Born Chinese. Square Fish, 2009.

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