In 1949 four Chinese women, new immigrants to San Francisco, begin meeting to eat dim-sum, play mahjong, and talk. With shared unspeakable loss and hope, they call themselves the Joy Luck Club. Rather than stay in the shadow of tragedy, they choose to gather to raise their spirits and money. “To despair was to wish back for something already lost. Or to prolong what was already unbearable.” Their stories and history continue forty years.
With wit and sensitivity, Amy Tan discovers the painful, tender and deep connection between mothers and daughters. As each woman reveals her secrets, trying to uncover the truth about her life, the stories become more and more complicated. It is different from other novels since the whole story is separated into different little stories and put in different orders. Stories of four mothers, four daughters and four families shift now and then. Each little story represents a mother and daughter’s marriage or family conflict. Tan is such a smart storyteller that she attracts readers to absorb themselves into these lives of complexity and mystery. Obviously, the conflicts are caused because of mothers’ and daughters’ generation gaps and growing backgrounds. The mothers grew up in China where many traditions and rules to follow. However, the daughters grew up in San Francisco and live in an Americanism way. Each of the mothers in Tan’s novel wanted to teach their daughters the lessons learned in China and give them the comforts of America. But language and culture barriers separate the women until they were almost lost to each other. As one mother says, “I raised a daughter, watching her from another shore.” Each character has to take their own journey to finally understand what make them apart and find their common ground.
In the novel, the delicate and deep love between mothers and daughters certainly impressed me a lot. Besides it, I understand more about the importance of revealing one’s true nature and loving oneself through the stories of the characters, especially those of Lindo, Ying-ying, Lena and Rose.
The story of Lindo shows the concept of revealing your true nature. Lindo “keeps everything inside” and wasn’t able to experience love in her first marriage. Lindo hides “under a red marriage scarf” in attempt to keep herself away from the outside world. By hiding under the scarf, she pretends that to be able to love. Ying-ying is also an example of the desire to remain hidden as she says, “All these years I kept my true nature hidden, running along like a small shadow so nobody could catch me.” The image of the shadow relates directly to the red marriage scarf. They both attempt to conceal their true natures, because they are afraid to reveal their true self which may be painful. Love proves hard to gain but Lindo learns to embrace it and accept it as best she can. Finally she gets rid of her first marriage and begins a new life in America. By revealing her own true nature, she finds a new self. Ying-ying also gets out of her own shadow by telling her daughter her tragedy in china.
When seeing the garden in the forgotten condition, Rose realizes "there's absolutely nothing left to save" in her marriage and that she must divorce her husband. In her marriage, she plays as an accessory of her husband who decides everything for her and the whole family. At last, Rose understands that she is not what she continually pretends to be. Therefore, she stops taking love for granted and ignoring it. Instead she moves on to a better, more comfortable life with a feeling of being needed. Lena also has some crisis in her marriage. It occurs when Lena leans over to her husband in their car and says “I love you.” He responds by asking Lena a question about his car, which seems to be more important to him than his relationship with her. His ignoring love and concentrating more on material possessions makes Lena to think that their marriage is just like a vast on the frail table. Then after gaining the power from her mother Ying-ying, she bursts out crying and is brave enough to ask for a change. She really knows what kind of life and love she pursues.
Lindo and Ying-ying are Chinese mothers. Although they learned the western ways and they tried to speak English with thick tongue, but it doesn’t change their traditional Chinese characteristics¬—reserved identity. While, Lena and Rose were born in America and claimed that they are Americans. However, the blood of Chinese nation still flows in their bodies, bringing them the innate modesty and obedience like the traditional Chinese women. All these cause their failure and crisis in their American family life. The pained feeling at the beginning of love indicates the revelation of the true nature of the character. This pained feeling, the lifting of the scarf, the shadow, the neglected garden or the broken vast, opens the door to the true nature of the character. Loving yourself is a necessity in life because it provides self-respect. If one respects oneself, one will respect and love others. By revealing one’s true nature, one can find one’s real value in the world.
The ignorance of and the necessity of love are all introduced as the characters tell their life stories and memories in this novel. It makes me think more about my true nature, my value and my mother. As the author says, “this is a novel for mothers, daughters, and those that love them.” I totally agree her. It is the very book for women, which teaches us to think of the role of a daughter, a wife and a mother. Read it and learn to love yourself more.