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The Joy Luck Club

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Essay title: The Joy Luck Club

It is true that all people are created different, and thus no two cultures will ever be the same. Throughout Asian American literature there seems to be a struggle between the Asian culture and American culture. More specifically, there is a struggle between Asian women and their Asian American daughters, and what it means to be feminine, and how a woman should act. The main struggle is between how the American woman should act and how the Asian woman should act. However, the behavior of the Asian woman seems to be dominant through out the story because although the daughters and the mothers may not get along all of the time, the mothers to receive a lot of respect from their daughters. Therefore, the mother’s opinion on how they should act, which is behaving like the Asian woman, is most evident. This is the case in The Joy Luck Club, written by Amy Tan and also in the short story "Waiting for Mr. Kim," written by Carol Roh-Spaulding. These two stories have very different meanings, however they are similar in the aspect that they are all Asian women with Asian American daughters trying to get their daughters to keep and use their Asian heritage. There are certain behaviors that Asian women are expected to have, and the mothers feel that their daughters should use these behaviors. In The Joy Luck Club, the novel traces the fate of the four mothers-Suyuan Woo, An-mei Hsu, Lindo Jong, and Ying-ying St. Clair-and their four daughters-June Woo, Rose Hsu Jordan, Waverly Jong, and Lena St. Clair. Through the experiences that these characters go through, they become women. The mothers all fled China in the 1940's and they all retain much of their heritage. Their heritage focuses on what is means to be a female, but more importantly what it means to be an Asian female. In the short story "Waiting for Mr. Kim," the main female character Gracie understands what it means to be an Asian female, but she does question the meaning because of her sisters. Her sisters ran away from home before their marriage could be arranged and eloped. This is totally against Asian culture, and it causes Gracie to question her heritage and her Asian femininity. In both of these stories there are certain characteristics of females that are the same, they are inner strength, obedience, honor and respect, the good of the whole is better than the good of the individual, and finding things out for yourself. In the chapter "Scar" the characteristic of honor and respect is first noticed. In this chapter An-mei finds out how her mother basically deserted her, her mother did leave for a good reason, which was to maintain the honor of her family, but either way her mother left her. Her grandmother had to raise her, and she learned much about the Asian woman from her. An-mei was showing some disrespect towards on of her aunts, and her aunt told her that she was being disrespectful. Her grandmother then interjected and said, "When you lose your face, An-mei…it is like dropping your necklace down a well. The only way you can get it back is to fall in after it." She was talking about A-mei's mother, and how she left because she had disrespected the family and she was dishonorable to the family name. The only way for her mother to regain respect and honor was to leave and do it on her own, which is a characteristic of an Asian woman. Another feminine characteristic that comes from that scene is being able to do things on your own. However, this is an American influence. This characteristic comes from the chapter "Rules of the Game." This is a peculiar chapter in the book because it is a chapter where the woman is not seen as inferior to the man. Waverly's brother, Vincent, received a chess set for Christmas. However, Waverly is the one who took full use of the chess set. She was a natural, she would beat her brothers in chess, which would normally be looked down upon in Asian culture, but she was encouraged. She was even given lessons in chess, and she was a national champion. Unlike An-mei's mother, Waverly was bringing honor to the family name. When Waverly is encouraged to excel in chess she learns something from her mother. Her mother said in her broken English, "This American rules…Every time people come out from a foreign country, must know rules. You not know, judge say, too bad, and go back. They are not telling you why so you can use their way to go forward. They say, don’t know why, you find out yourself." This is an American custom, more than an Asian one. She is explaining that in order to succeed as an Asian female in the United States, then there are certain things that you will have to find out on your own. Also in this chapter was the theme/characteristic of inner strength. Waverly says she six when her mother taught her the "art of invisible strength." Waverly was walking by the candy store when she was a young child, and she was begging

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