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The Hundred Secret Senses and the Joy Luck Club - Amy Tan

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Essay title: The Hundred Secret Senses and the Joy Luck Club - Amy Tan

The Hundred Secret Senses and The Joy Luck Club

Amy Tan

A major part of the novel of Amy Tan’s novels has been devoted to the reflection of the role of ethnicity in the life and choices of the narrator. Tan tries to force her characters to face the question and make decision that take the Chinese and American heritages into account. More specifically, the author, who hands the novel over to the narrator, centers on the drama of ethnicity and identity the various characters meet on occasion. In addition, in her novels, Amy Tan has tried to express the deep love and compassion between the relationships of the mothers and daughters of the novels. In her books, she presents the conflicting views and the stories of both sides, providing the reader and finally, the characters with an understanding of the mentalities of both mother and daughter, and why each one is the way she is. Yet as the stories begin, the culture from China becomes endangered, when the first generation enters society. The mothers feel a loss of traditional culture, while the children search to be a part of the American/white society. In an attempt to maintain family bonds throughout The Joy Luck Club and The Hundred Secret Senses, the characters in her novels present a contrast between the ideals of the daughters’ that conflicts with the ideals of the mothers’, which in turn leads to a yearning for a middle ground between the two generations. As Tan stresses the tensions between the two generations, she shows evidence of her personal experiences as a child in similar situations.

As the daughters, in Tan’s novels, are introduced into the American society, they long for independence, apart from the Chinese culture they are shaped by at home. In public the daughters are influenced by principle of the white public, and realize that they are not able to accept the morals of the mothers, which becomes a vital challenge for the family to maintain a close relationship. Through the eyes of the daughters, we can also see the continuation of the mothers' stories, how they learned to cope in America. Amy Tan explores the difficulties in growing up as a Chinese-American and the problems assimilating into modern society. The Chinese-American daughters try their best to become "Americanized," at the same time casting off their heritage while their mothers watch, dismayed. Social pressures to become like everyone else and not to be different are what motivate the daughters to resent their nationality. Tan stresses the idea of the daughters separating themselves from the novel’s cultural trend by angling out of the mothers’ teachings and establishing their own American qualities. In order for the daughters’ to establish their own identities apart from the Chinese ethics, humility, conformity, and understanding create barriers against their mother’s origins. While writing her novel, the Joy Luck Club, Tan noted, “I’d write a mother’s story, and then I’d hear the daughter saying, ‘Well, let me tell my side of it.’”

Through experiences in public, humiliation plays a major role as to why the daughters struggle to hide their Chinese origins. In The Hundred Secret Senses, Olivia, the protagonist and a photographer for a magazine company who denies any connections with her half sister who arrives from China, tries to keep Kwan away by treating her as an outcast. Olivia notes that Kwan becomes a threat to her American morals and thereby denies Kwan’s talent to see the dead; “I went to my mother and did what I promised I’d never do: I told her about Kwan’s yin eyes…I realize it wasn’t my fault that Kwan went to the mental hospital. In a way she brought it on herself.” (p. 15) Kwan becomes the main reason for why Olivia wants to free herself from Kwan’s special abilities and knowledge of China. “Kwan is an immediate and embarrassment to Olivia. Kwan’s belief that she can speak with spirits is another source of humiliation,” as stated by the Contemporary Authors. But on the other hand, Kwan becomes a mother-like figure in the novel, to help Olivia accept her nationality by bringing her back to China and the tales of their fore-life. “I should have been grateful to Kwan, I could always depend on her. She likes nothing better than to be by my side. But instead, most of the time, I resented her for taking my mother’s place.” (p.11) This idea of resentment and embarrassment is carried on into The Joy Luck Club by June, the daughter of Suyuan, the mother who first establishes the Joy Luck Club in America to share the happiness and fortune between women who have migrated to America from China. Until her mother’s death, June does not realize the life teachings her mother attempted to pass on to her. June was constantly angry at her incapability to compare to the other successful “daughters” in the

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