The Divergence of American Born Chinese in the Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

Question: In the Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan touches on an obscure, little discussed issue: the divergence of Chinese culture through American children born of Chinese immigrant parents.

With close reference to at least two stories in the book, discuss the truth of this statement. To a certain extent, I agree with this statement. A person’s environment in which he/she grows up is a large factor in moulding his/her thinking, character and behaviour. Going by their titles and genes, the four daughters are Chinese, yet there is more to it than it meets the eye. First of all, the daughters speak in English, not their language, Mandarin. Second of all, they are addressed by their English names, Jing-mei as June, or they do not have a Chinese name at all. They have American thinking and have completely no remembrance or memory of their Chinese thinkings, customs and traditions.

In me, they see their own daughters, just as ignorant, just as unmindful of all the truths and hopes they have bought to America. They see daughters who grow impatient when their mothers talk in Fractured English. They see that joy and luck do not mean the same to their daughters, that to these closed American-born minds joy luck is not a word, it does not exist. They see daughters who will bear grandchildren born without any connecting hope passed from one generation to generation.

Chinese mothers were taught to desire nothing, to swallow other people’s misery, to eat my own bitterness. Yet, the daughters do not have this blind obedience to their mothers. After the piano talent show fiasco, a quarrel broke out between June and Suyuan. June did not have this blind obedience like a Chinese daughter, I didn’t have to do what my mother said anymore. I wasn’t her slave. This wasn’t China and refused to be the best, perfect, as what her mother wants her to be. Her mother only hoped and wanted the best for her daughter, which is the Chinese thinking, yet June takes it that her mother wants her to be someone that she is not. When Suyuan tells June, only one kind of daughter can live in this house, the obedient daughter or the one who follows her mind. Suyuan meant that the daughter should follow without question and obey the mother, not like the American daughter who follows her own mind. However, June, in the end, chose to disobey her mother, talked back to her, even shouted at her, II wish I wasn’t your daughter. I wish you weren’t my mother. Then I wish Ed never been bom! I wish I were dead! Like them.. this is not the act of a Chinese daughter, a Chinese daughter can never talk back.

When Lindo showed Waverly off, she was proud of her daughter for winning the chess competitions and being a chess champion, yet Waverly take it that her mother is a show-off, I wish you wouldn’t do that, telling everyone that I’m your daughter. In the Chinese way of thinking, a Chinese daughter would want her mother to be proud of her and would strive her best to achieve it. Waverly dared to scold her mother, Why do you have to use me to show off? If you want to show off, why don’t you learn to play chess and ran away from home. If a Chinese daughter ran away from home, it meant that the family will disown her, treat her as an outcaste, never accepting her and never allowed to come back. Yet, Waverly took the American way of rebelling against her mother, not only running away, but plot herself against her own mother later and pondered my next movell.

In The Voice From The Wall told by Lena St Clair, she has been using her American mind, asking what exactly happened to the beggar who was sentenced to die the death of a thousand cuts. When asked, her mother exclaimed, Why do you Americans have only these morbid thoughts in your mind? in Chinese thinking, they were only told, never to question. Only to know the result, not what happened. This difference is seen in the Americanized thinking of Lena again when she starts hearing things from the wall which was a barricade to the next apartment. The Iscraping sounds, slamming, pushing and shouts and then whack! whack! whack! made her think that someone was been killed, causing her to have morbid thoughts. In Rice Husband, Ying Ying told Lena that your future husband will have one pock mark for every rice you did not finish. It was a ruse that Chinese mothers tell their children so as to make them finish their food and not waste it. Instead of finishing her food, her Americanized started her morbid thoughts once more, thinking that she will marry Arnold. In the end, all these thoughts caused her to waste food excessively and hated ice-cream later. When Lena shows her mother the guest bedroom, she announces it proudly in her American way. However, in the Chinese way of thinking, the guest bedroom is the best bedroom, where she and her husband sleep. Even Ying Ying admits that Lena isprang from her like a slippery fish, and has been swimming ever since and that Lena does not listen to her, not in the way that traditional Chinese daughters do. When Ying Ying thinks of reminding Lena not to put any babies in a room that has ceilings that slope downwards, Lena casts it off as superstition. Ying Ying also regrets that she Ishould have slapped her more often for disrespect as Lena has gone the American way, for a Chinese daughter respects her mother more than anything.

In Half and Half told by Rose Hsu Jordon, we see that Rose does not believe in this Inengkan, the ability to do anything you put your mind to which her parents have as she would rather go to a psychiatrist than use this inengkan as her Chinese parents do. Rose does not believe in the book of The Twenty-six Malignant Gates, the superstition that young children were predisposed to certain dangers on certain days. She asked to see the book as she did not believe what her said about the book and shouted, “You can’t tell me because you don’t know! You don’t know anything! rose listened to a lot of people except her mother, she did not believe in the traditional Chinese thinking that a mother is best. A mother knows what is inside you, refusing to believe her mother that Ted is doing monkey business with someone else and not wanting to talk about Ted with her mother. Rose did not listen to her mother, as she learned to let her words blow through her. She filled her mind with other people’s thoughts—all in English, thinking that her mother’s advice were backward. Seeing a psychiatrist is also a very American thing as in the Chinese way of thinking, a daughter should talk to her mother instead of outsiders, for it is like washing her own dirty linen in public.

All in all, the above goes to prove that the divergence of Chinese culture through American children born of Chinese immigrant parents is fairly true. However, as the mothers and daughters reconcile later, their barrier is broken and the daughters begin to accept this Chinese part of them in their blood, with East meeting West!

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The Divergence of American Born Chinese in the Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan. (2022, Dec 02). Retrieved February 23, 2024 , from

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