The Joy Luck Club Essay
The Joy Luck Club is a story about four Chinese friends and their daughters. It tells the story of the mother’s struggles in China and their acceptance in America, and the daughter’s struggles of finding themselves as Chinese-Americans. The movie starts off with a story about a swan feather, and how it was brought over with only good intentions. Then the movie goes on, the setting is at a party for June the daughter of Suyuan. Suyuan has just past away about four months ago, and her mother’s friends have found her long lost daughters. But it is too late for her to go see them so they tell June, about it and they arrange a meeting for her in China. The party is a going away party for June’s trip to China. At the party June realizes that she was expected to take the place of her mother at the mahjong table. June sat at the East where it all starts “The Joy Luck Club”. The Joy Luck club was a weekly meeting of the best friends, were they talked about their hopes for their daughters and there stories of the past.
The swan feather in the beginning was a symbol of all the hopes and dreams that the mother wanted to give to her daughter. This woman crossing a vast ocean, with only the company of a swan, yet she is not scared. She has dreams for her daughter, and this dream is the driving force of her actions. She is moved to realize this dream, that she is not even aware of the potential bad outcomes. There is no talk about hoping to have a daughter it says I will have a daughter just like me, and she will always be to full to swallow any sorrow. There is no single thought of failure in her mind. Her dreams have instilled in her blind faith, and inherent optimism. She will go as far as that she lets these qualities take her. The swan feather is a symbol of Chinese culture, in that it was brought from China with only good intentions. It was not a symbol for failure but for hope. The swan grew up to me more than what was hoped for it was too beautiful to eat. But when it was taken away, the only thing that was left was a feather a symbol of something that was meant to be nothing but became more. It was a symbol for the mothers it was what they wanted there children to become more then what they where in China. This symbol was learned through the stories that the mothers have told to their daughters. It was learned through the hard ship that the mothers have experienced in there past in China, the past that haunted them to America.
In the story of June and her mother Suyuan, in the kitchen. June stands out strongly, because of her mother’s intention in giving her the pendant is unclear, it spurs her to the question. That the gift was given in the context of their discussion of quality, and may show in specific way her mother was valuing her, not just for being her daughter, but because she was finally, best at something. This was the night that Suyuan recognized her daughter is different, but Best Quality. Suyuan wanted the best for her daughter. Suyuan knew that her daughter was the best but never really said it to her. June always thought that she wasn’t enough for her mother that she never measured up to her expectations. And everything that her mother hoped for that she couldn’t meet, she was a disappointment. Her mother noticed that she had all the qualities that she hoped for in a daughter, she told this to her daughter when she noticed that she always took the worst crab so that the best crab was served to the guest. June had the Best Heart. This was something that Suyuan wanted to give to her daughter. June now realizes this, and she realizes that she has met her mother’s hopes. The pendant is her mother’s recognition that, if nothing else, June is true to her own nature, is the best. June finds herself performing the same kitchen-rituals that her mother did, June truly begins to understand and honor her. June takes on her mother’s spirit as she sits down at the East in the Joy Luck Club. You can also see this when she arrives in China to greet her sisters, with the swan feather at hand.
Another symbol in the Joy Luck Club happens between Ying- Ying and Lena. It starts out by telling the story of Ying- Ying’s past in China and how she recognizes the indirect way that her mother instilled in her a fear of unforeseen and disastrous consequences of her actions. The balance sheet on the refrigerator is the sign that makes it possible for Ying-Ying to redeem herself to her daughter. To show her daughter what a marriage is suppose to be made out of. The economic metaphor illustrates how poor her marriage is in the balance that really matters. Like the table that Harold built, the marriage is showy without being functional. Ying-Ying demonstrates to her daughter that surface balance is useless and that Lena’s conception of herself and Harold being equal is flawed. When the table falls it illustrates the breaking of the marriage, and the freeing of the spirit of the mother. This spirit gives Lena the strength to decide what she wants out of the marriage. You find out in the movie that she had left Harold and is going out with a young Chinese man that respects and loves Lena and her mother Ying-Ying.
I am a Chinese-American 2nd generation. Meaning my mom and dad are Chinese but they grew up in America. I look at my family and culture and it seems like the American way has somehow covered the Chinese way. I look at the way that my grandma is and compare it with the way my mom is and see some resemblance in it. But then there are so many ways that it is different. For example when my grandmother comes over it seems like we can’t ever throw away anything she finds some kind of use for it. But on the other hand my mom throws everything away, she always says that we can buy a new one if it breaks. This difference shows me that the economic way that my mom grew up in is different than the way that my grandmother grew up in. My mom always told me that she doesn’t want me to go without something that I want. I know this cause when I was little I use to watch the toy commercials on T.V and every time I saw something that I wanted, I would tell her, and she would buy it for me, like nothing. I think that she wants more for me than what she could have had when she was little. My mom use to tell me the stories of her growing up and only eating a little so that her brother could have more than her, and grow up to be strong. My mom grew up thinking that she was less than what her brother was, since she was born a girl. For me I am the middle child, and I have a younger brother, but my mom treats us the same. My mom married my dad and of course my grandmother likes it cause my dad is Chinese. But I see my grandmother act differently towards my aunt and her husband who is Spanish. I don’t see much character difference in my dad and my uncle they both respect my grandmother, but the only difference is their race. I see my grandmother look at my uncle dumbly, but when she looks at my dad she looks at him just like she looks at my mother. I see my mom and dad’s as equals in their marriage. They both work and make the decisions together. They always talk about things and it seems to me that they never argue. They both share the house hold duties, sometimes my mom cooks and does the dishes, but sometimes my dad does the same. I don’t see one doing more than the other. I think that this is a good way to keep a marriage together. My grandmother on the other hand was raised in China and came over here being the wife of my Grandpa. My grandmother did all the cooking and cleaning and raising the kids. I just remember my Grandpa smoking and hanging out with his friends. I know that my grandparents loved each other, but it was different than the way my parents love each other. My grandmother grew up respecting her husband’s decisions and not having a say so in any decision.
In the movie the Joy Luck Club sex and marriage is one of the cultural gaps that a mother and daughter have to get through. I think that the story of Lindo and Waverly, best shows this. The way that Lindo grew up in China reflects the way that she is in America. Lindo was sold to a matchmaker when she was in China, she was told by her mother how to act or how to be an obedient wife in her new family. Lindo realized that this is not the kind of life that she wanted and she gets a rail ticket to Shanghai. Waverly on the other hand was grew up in America where the American customs have influenced her way of thinking. Waverly wanted to please her mother and she even married a Chinese Man. But still this didn’t please her. When Waverly divorced him she thought that her mother blamed her. Waverly was scared to introduce her fiance to her mother, because she thought that her mother wouldn’t approver of her decision. The conflict between the two shows the conflict between the Chinese Culture and the American Culture and how it collides together. Lindo thinks that Waverly is ashamed to be her daughter. She thinks this because of the way that Waverly acts and communicated to her mother. When Lindo tells Waverly about her mother and her memories. Lindo finally tells her that she only wants the best for her. Waverly tells Lindo that she has so much power over her, and that anything that she does never pleases her. And from this moment it seems like the two cultures have found a common ground, so that both mother and daughter are happy. In all the stories all the mothers want is the best and happiness for their daughters.
Sex and Marriage is also apparent in the story of Ying- Ying. In China Ying- Ying was married to a bad man who was what she dreamed for, but ended up to be very bad. Ying- Ying had realized that her husband was happiest when he was cruel. But it is hard to get out of a marriage especially when there is a son involved. She knew that if she killed him that she would loose something that she loved her son. He had taken away her innocence and so she took from him the only thing that she could she took from him, his son. When she lost her son her spirit was lost also. This haunted her all the way to America, and so when she had a daughter in America she had no spirit cause she had none to give to her. The way that Ying-Ying grew up in China is different than the way that Lena grows up in America. But since Ying- Ying brought Lena up not knowing her worth she didn’t know how to choose the right husband for her. She didn’t know her value. In China marriage is based upon the husband and in America the marriage is based upon both.
I can see this in the movie but I can also see this in the way that my mom grew up. I think that I can relate more to the daughters. But my mom has helped me realize the value and worth of myself, by telling me and showing me. I think that in the case of Ying- Ying that in my culture, it would be easier to leave him. With the law on my side I think that I could take away more than what he took away from him. I could take away his son but also keep my spirit.
When I watched the movie I thought that Ying-Ying acted dumb. I thought that she didn’t have to kill her son to take something away from her evil husband. I think that I acted this way because I was raised in America. Knowing that adultery, and abuse is wrong, I think that I could have taken the son with out killing him. I think that I acted in an ethnocentric manner, because of the way that I grew up. In America you grow up watching the news or reading about the bad and how you could have done better. Just by watching the news you can see trials of battered wives going back to people who beat them. I always ask my self why “that’s dumb”. I think I act this way because I am educated, and that I know the law enough to know who is right and who is wrong in a situation. I think that my way is better because the son would still be alive and not dead, so I think that is why I also acted ethnocentric. Looking at the scene in a culturally relative way, I think Ying- Ying acted in the situation was the best for the story line and the time and place that she was in. I know that if I was in China in that time period I would feel trapped and not know what and how to get out of such a marriage with out being killed or hurt. I don’t think that I could have gotten the same view of Ying- Ying and the way she is if she acted differently in that situation.
In the movie The Joy Luck Club, the characteristics and differences between the two Cultural, of mother and daughter, have brought more light into my culture. I relate to this movie more than then the other because I am a Chinese American. I don’t relate so much to the daughters but more than the mothers, since I am a 2nd generation Chinese. The movie was more about the spirits and dreams of the mothers and the hopes for a better life for their daughters in America. The struggle between the two cultures and the acceptance of mother and daughter are also present in the movie. By looking at the different stories of mother and daughter I could see the differences in the Culture and the gap that they had to overcome. I think that in my life the gap is much smaller than the gap that the mother and daughters had to overcome. I think this because of the way that my mom raised me. She raised me thinking nothing but the best for me. I think that I can live up to her expectations because of the way that she accepts what I do. The movie opened my eyes to this and made me think, and to come to a conclusion on why I do what I do. The ugly duckling that came from afar and grew into more than what it was supposed to be, a beautiful swan. But taken away and only the feather and the memories of what it was. A beautiful swan, that proved everyone wrong.
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