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A mothers struggle in the joy luck club by amy tan

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On one side are the mothers, Chinese immigrants who have been gathering together for years at a weekly mahjong party called The Joy Luck Club. These women lived several lives—lives that began in the very old world of China before Mao. On the other side are their modern second-generation American daughters.

I still find myself sympathizing with them, but for slightly different reasons. Each of the daughters—June, Waverly, Lena, and Rose—wants to understand their inscrutable mothers.

What did the daughters in The Joy Luck Club teach their mothers?

What spoke to me at the time was the love and the tension and the cultural generation gap that always reminded me of two people trying to have a conversation by shouting at each other from opposite sides of the Grand Canyon. Even with the best intentions, only a few vague words and phrases ever come across.

Although they are sometimes rendered in fractured English, the meaning seems as clear as anything Shakespeare might have composed in English.

The mothers chide their daughters about the ridiculous and the sublime. Once when I was little, she told me she knew it would rain because lost ghosts were circling near our windows, calling to be let in. She said doors would unlock themselves in the middle of the night unless we checked twice. She said a mirror could see only my face, but she could see me inside out even when I was out of the room.

A steep driveway to a home, a burst pipe, a dying plant are all symbols of impending bad luck. Whenever my own mother ran out of English bromides, she would immediately quote my grandmother.

The Joy Luck Club

They were always warnings about thieves with their hats on fire, a mindless chatter like the banging of a tea kettle, or, chickens like me, trying to teach a hen, like my mother. The mothers reveal themselves in the course of the novel in beautifully melancholy stories of hardship, love, suffering, and loss. But to daughters, the Old Country their mothers talk about is as ancient as the great pyramids of Egypt.

My grandparents told similar stories of trying to leave war-torn lands in search of safety.

Tan suggests that perhaps we have to come face-to-face with our own struggles and losses to understand our parents and grandparents. On the road, she made the agonizing decision to abandon the baby girls by the side of the road with other discarded possessions: It was An-mei who had the idea for the weekly parties in China.

She asked three other women to play mahjong and serve up large banquets of food. They do it to renew hope when all seemed lost. Each week we could forget past wrongs done to us. That hope was our only joy. I understand now the need to invest your daughter with every wise word and cautionary tale to lead her to a successful and happy life. You are first in line for a scholarship. If the roof crashes on your head, no need to cry over this bad luck.

You can sue anybody, make the landlord fix it. You do not have to sit like a Buddha under a tree letting pigeons drop their dirty business on your head.

You can buy an umbrella. Or go inside a Catholic church. In America, nobody says you have to keep the circumstances somebody else gives you.

The Joy Luck Club

How not to show your own thoughts, to put your feelings behind your face so you can take advantage of hidden opportunities. Why easy things are not worth pursuing. How to know your own worth and polish it, never flashing it around like a cheap ring.