In The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tans first novel, short-story-like vignettes alternate
back and forth between the lives of four Chinese women in pre-1949 China and lives of
their American-born daughters in California. The book is a mediation on the divided
nature of this emigrant life. The novel is narrated horizontally as well as vertically;
friendships and rivalries develop among the daughters as well as the mothers.(Matuz 92)
As Jing Mei Woo describes, Auntie Lin and my mother were both best friends and
arch-enemies who spent a lifetime comparing their children. I was one month older than
Waverly Jong, Auntie Lins prized daughter. From the time we were babies, our
mothers compared the creases in our belly buttons, how shapely our earlobes were, how
fast we healed when we scraped our knees, how thick and dark our hair was, how many
shoes we wore out in one year, and later, how smart Waverly was at playing chess, how
many trophies she had won last month, how many newspapers had printed her name, how
many cities she had visited. (95) In Amy Tans novel she shows that the bond between a
family is the strongest bond between any type of people.
Tan has written a novel without a central plot but with characters and events that
are as powerful as myth, and which often entangle it. The stories of the aunties are
interspersed with events involving the daughters, so that China and America come
together in fantastic and unconnected succession. Tan lets each woman tell her own
story; at the center of each tale is the ferocious love between a mother and daughter. (89)
Even though I taught my daughter the opposite, she still came out the same way!
Maybe it is because she was born to me and she was born a girl. And I was born to my
mother and I was born a girl. All of us are like stairs, one step after another, going up
and down, but all going the same way. (Tan 92)
Born in Oakland, California, in 1952 to a father educated as an engineer in
Beijing and a mother raised in a well-to-do Shanghai family, Amy Tan grew up in an
American world that was far from the childhood world of her parents. (Matuz 92)
When pollsters ask people what is most important to happiness, the overwhelming
majority give the same response: a good family life. Most individuals need the care,
comfort, and security that a resilient, loving family provides. Positivity
plays a large part in the dynamics of healthy families. This influence, together with the
security a family gains from being well loved, is one of the most compelling justifications
for the existence of a family. (Time-Life 120)
Anthropologists agree that the family is a central, positive institution in every
society. (Ryder 23) As we bog down in the drama of daily living, a focus on the world
can be hard to hold on to, but the support of a family helps. Supportiveness may be one
of the most valuable tools for relationship building in your family.In healthy, functional
family groups, individuals contribute to a peaceful and cooperative co-existence.
The distinct closeness that many siblings share forms the basis for what can be a
rewarding and supportive lifelong connection. (Time-Life 57) As Jing Mei Woo
describes her first time meeting her sisters, And then I see her. Her short hair. Her
small body. And that same look on her face. She has the back of her hand pressed hard
against her mouth. And I know it is not my mother, yet it is the same look she had when
I was five and had disappeared all afternoon, for such a long time she was convinced I
was dead, and when I appeared, sleepy-eyed, crawling from underneath my bed, she wept
and laughed , biting the back of her hand to make sure it was true. And then I see her
again, two of her, waving, and in one hand there is a photo, the Polaroid I sent them. As
soon as I get beyond the gate, we run toward each other, all three of us embracing, all
hesitations and expectations forgotten. Mama, Mama, we all murmur, as if she is among
us. My sisters look at me proudlyAnd now I also see what part of me is Chinese. It is
obvious. It is my family. It is in our blood, after all these years, it can finally be let go.
Just because two kids live together or are related doesnt mean they have to like
each other. Rivalry between siblings in only part of the story. Even more important is
sibling loyalty. Sibling loyalty is apparent in the protective concern of brothers and
sisters for one another. Many parents have seen a scolded child turn to a sibling for
comfort or support-or have been surprised to find a youngster, usually critical of his rival,
suddenly leap to his defense, as though some great injustice had been done. Others have
seen an older sibling suddenly grab a younger brother or sister when the smaller child has
gotten too close to the top of the stairs. This same protectiveness can extend beyond the
home, with the older child backing up the younger one in tense or difficult play situations
involving other children. Such moments of solidarity build mutual trust. (Time-Life 76)
For younger children, the presence of an older brother or sister also provides a
ready role model, a chance to learn from the experience of someone else. Morever,
sibling relationships can lay the groundwork for broader social understanding. Teaching
children to respect the feelings of others, to share and compete, to forgive and trust.
These are necessary lessons, best learned in childhood. For all their fighting, siblings
more often than not identify with each other. As kin, they learn about the world together.
And when shared experiences begin to accumulate, a sense of loyalty emerges that can
deepen into a lifelong bond. Studies have shown that the more closely two people are
related, the higher the correlation between their IQs. Biological siblings, for example,
usually score closer on IQ tests than do adopted siblings. (26)
The vast majority of adults, more than ninety percent, get married. Many people
marry out of a desire to share their life together as well as a desire to have children
together. (Worth 29)
The parent-child bond is one of the strongest. Exactly when
bonding occurs has been the subject of several studies. One theory holds that hormonal
changes may make new mothers especially receptive during the first few days of an
infants life. It is a fortunate thing that parent-child bonding is not confined to a single
magical moment. Otherwise a parents relationship with a little one might suffer
irreparably should the mother and infant have to be separated during the days and weeks
following the birth due to illness. Luckily, for everyone involved, the speed with which
bonding occurs does not affect its long-term quality. Once achieved, the parent-child
bond deepens as the youngster grows and changes. (Time-Life 43)
My mother was a stranger to me when she first arrived at my uncles house in
Ningpo. I was nine years old and had not seen her for many years. But I knew she was
my mother, because I could feel her pain. (Tan 216)
The bond is closely tied to the pride and wonder parents experience when they
discover that their heir is able to take those first few wobbly steps or has learned to tie his
own laces or can balance on a two-wheeler. The joy and excitement only increase as the
child grows and begins responding to life in unique and surprising ways. The bond is
closely tied to the pride and wonder parents experience when being with their children.
The challenge of unconditional love is not just showing it when your kids grades
are great, when their rooms are neat or when they bring the car back on time, but being
able to show it when none of this is true. (Bluestein 47)
Mrs. Sorci was shouting and crying, You stupid girl, you almost gave me a heart
attack. And Teresa was yelling back, I coulda been killed, I almost fell and broke my
neck. And then I heard them laughing and crying, crying and laughing, shouting with
love. (Tan 115) Is how Lena St. Clair described the fighting of a mother and daughter
after the daughter had ran away.
As a parent, being able to just listen- hearing and respecting your childs opinions,
priorities, and desires is an important aspect of empowerment. All experiences
strengthen your childrens perception that they can influence the course of their lives,
which is, in the truest sense, what empowerment is all about. (Bluestein 79)
Children need security- to know that their calls for food will be answered.
Security gives children confidence. (Worth 41)
Your mother was a very strong woman, a good mother. She loved you very
much, more than her own life, (Tan 39) Auntie Lin tells Jing Mei Woo.
Parents may not be able to meet their childrens needs every time, but there are
lots of ways to empower children and establish win-win in their family. (Bluestein 79)
Parents have always been the most important agents of socialization of their
children. Parental influence occurs not in a vacuum, however, but within the framework
of the larger society, with which the parents identify. Your childs basic temperate-
whether impulsive or reflective, sunny or withdrawn- is partially determined by inherited
traits, some of which yield more to molding by environmental factors than others. Many
scientists believe that at least half of a childs personality is shaped by hereditary. (Time-
Mothers raise daughters to confirm to the strictures of the conventional female life
as defined by men. (Shannon 56) I was raised the Chinese way: I was taught to desire
nothing, to swallow other peoples misery, to eat my own bitterness, says Junes mother,
spelling out the dangerously congenital nature of this Chinese female submissiveness.
Unconditional acceptance frees children to discover for themselves who they
really are by living with various experiences long enough to see how well their choices
work for them. Kids who have their needs met in healthy, constructive ways by their
parents, may be less inclined to numb themselves with substances or compulsive
behavior than kids that dont. (Bluestein 82)
For most mothers and fathers, the rewards of parenthood far outweigh the debits.
Many report an enhanced sense of maturity and self-esteem. They often talk of their
children as the previously missing link that ultimately strengthens their relationship.
Most powerful of the rewards, and the most difficult to describe, are the ineffable feelings
of love that bind mothers and fathers to their children. First comes the momentous
transition to parenthood.
Both husband and wife are entering a new stage in their lives,
one fundamentally different from those that have gone before. Now they must think first
not of themselves, but of the welfare of another human being. (Time-Life 38)
Lindo Jong tells her daughter a story about trusting your mother.
Do not ride your bicycle around the corner, the mother had told the daughter
when she was seven.
Why not! protested the girl.
Because then I cannot see you and you will fall down and cry and I will not hear
How do you know Ill fall? whined the girl.
It is in a book, The Twenty-Six Malignant Gates, all the bad things that can
happen to you outside the protection of this house.
I dont believe you. Let me see the book.
It is written in Chinese. You cannot understand it. That is why you must listen
What are they, then? the girl demanded. Tell me the twenty-six bad things.
But the mother sat knitting in silence
What twenty-six! shouted the girl.
The mother still did not answer her.
You cant tell me because you dont know! You dont know anything! And the
girl ran outside, jumped on her bicycle, and in her hurry to get away, she fell before she
even reached the corner. (Tan 88)
Parenthood has traditionally existed within the context of the family. It is the key
which unlocks the gate to other social roles and participation in society. Social
parenthood emphasizes the significance of the emotional relation and commitment to
children. (Shannon 44)
The Joy Luck Club is a book about relationships between families. The book
portrays how families stick together between hard times and how the bond they share
always stands strong.
Work Cited Page
1. Blankenhorn, David. Fatherless in America. New York: Basic Books, 1995.
2. Bloomingdale, Teresa. Up a Family Tree. New York: Doubleday and company, 1981.
3. Bombeck, Erma. Motherhood, The Second Oldest Profession. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1983.
4. Bluestein, Jane. Parents Teens and Boundaries. Florida: Health communication, 1993.
5. The Editors of Time-Life Books. Family Ties. Virginia: Time Life Books, 1987.
6. Matuz, Roger. Contemporary Literary Criticism. Detroit: Gale Research Inc, 1989.
7. Ryder, Verdene. Parents and Their Children. Illinois: The Goodheart-Willcox company, 1985.
8. Shannon, Thomas. Surrogate Motherhood. New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1988.
9. Tan, Amy. The Joy Luck Club. New York: Vintage Books, 1989.
10. Worth, Richard. The American Family. New York: Franklin Watts, 1984.
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