The Joy Luck Club is a novel by an Asian-American writer, Amy Tan. It depicts a few mother-daughter conflicts that occur due to cultural and generational differences. Mothers in the novel are first-generation immigrants from China who prefer to adhere to the traditions of their origin country. Daughters are second-generation immigrants who are brought up in the United States and, thus, have totally different cultural backgrounds and values. These differences provide a context for the incidence of rifts between the characters. This paper will aim to explain which of the daughter-mother conflicts may be attributed to cultural peculiarities and which – to the generational ones.
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The main conflict between the first pair of characters Lindo and Waverly Jong, is due to different views on romantic relationships. In the Chinese tradition in which Lindo is raised, it was normal to get married and engage in intimate relationships only with the agreement of seniors who often arranged marriages for their children. However, as an Asian-American, Waverly neither seeks her mother’s permission for dating boys and nor expects her to get involved in these matters. Thus, when she gets pregnant as an adolescent, a serious dispute in the family occurs. Overall, the cultural and generational differences are deeply interrelated in this case since a child’s disobedience is pretty common in many families. Nevertheless, Lindo’s conservative views on marriage add an extra dimension to the conflict.
The clash between another pair of characters Suyuan and Jing-Mei Woo, is also due to the daughter’s disobedience. Suyuan always tries to control her daughter and expects her to behave accordingly. Such an attitude is rather common in the conservative Chinese tradition that requires showing respect to authoritative figures, including parents and seniors. However, as an American, Jing-Mei is highly individualistic and prefers to live in accordance with her personal views. For example, when Suyuan once attempts to make Jing-Mei go to her piano class, the girl thinks: “I didn’t have to do what my mother said anymore. I wasn’t her slave. This wasn’t China” (Tan, 2008, p. 141). This means that again the mother-daughter conflict arises as a result of a complex mix of generational and cultural differences.
The misunderstanding between An-Mei Hsu and Rose Hsu-Jordan occurs due to their differences in the views on the roles of females in the family. Rose was married to an American and when they eventually decide to divorce, An-Mei, Rose’s mother, becomes very displeased with this decision. As a conservative Chinese woman, she believes that it is every woman’s responsibility to take care of her husband and children and considers divorce unacceptable. Conversely, in the individualistic US culture, people are accustomed to changing partners and regard divorce as a norm. Thus, Rose values personal freedom and does not agree with her mother’s stance. Overall, it seems that in their situation, the conflict is mainly culturally defined.
Ying-Ying, the mother in another pair of characters, adheres to the same principles as An-Mei Hsu. Based on her personal experience of getting married early, she happens to believe that the husband has a superior and more authoritative position in the family. Moreover, she is convinced that a wife and a husband should play specific, conventional gender roles. Thus, Ying-Ying does not understand her daughter’s relationships with her husband, which are based on equality, and, due to this, a misunderstanding between the mother and the daughter arises.
As the introduced examples demonstrate, the daughter-mother conflicts depicted in The Joy Luck Club are substantially defined by cultural peculiarities. Brought up in China, mothers find it hard to accept American values and ways of life. Conversely, daughters who never lived in China cannot fully comprehend their mothers’ views and consider them obsolete. The generational differences are deeply interrelated with the cultural ones in all these conflicts because it is normal for children to have opinions that differ from their parents’ views. However, daughters in the novel disobeyed their mothers also because these dissimilarities in the worldviews were profound and rooted in culture.
Tan, A. (2008). The joy luck club. New York, NY: Random House.