Chinese American Fortune Cookie Crack! The shell of the fortune cookie drops to the floor of the restaruant and the white scrap of paper is being read repeatidly until it to is carelessly lost to the floor. Floating through the air, trying to hold on to the last bit of life before it reaches the trenches of the restaruant floor, wishing the ink upon it spelled out a sentence that the owner would have liked to have heard. Instead, it was brushed away because the cultural and symbolic traits that were spelled out were not recognized by the owner. In the novel The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan explores significant issues of Chinese culture and their influences on the lives of four pairs of mothers and daughters. The structural format of the novel was planned very strategically by Amy Tan and is portrayed in such a manner of finesse, the reader must learn to recognize the structure and to solve the structures puzzle.
An important key to The Joy Luck Club is its “tying in” of each families’ story. The north, south, east, and west of the mah jong table, the table where the four mothers were seated, are inseparable. Each geographical direction has a symbolic meaning which is structuarally dispersed throughout the novel. The north is portrayed as dark and gruesome because most cold winds blow from the north in China. Contrastingly, the south is shown as the greatest warmth.
Additionally, the east is where most rivers in China flow; therefore, constructing the image of nourishment. Coincidingly, the west is the source for all the rivers in China; therefore, becoming adjacent symbolically with the east (Skinner, 7). Amy Tan connects the four directions with the structure of the novel. The organization of the chapters and episodes emphasize the universality of each joy luck family situation. Four sections divide the novel. Additionally, each section represents a stage in either the experience of immigration or in the mother-daughter relationships of the families.
The first section, Feathers from a Thousand Li Away, tells the story of each mother back in China. Opening the novel with their stories of sacrifice prepares the reader to understand the mothers’ motives later. Consequently, one is more forgiving towards the criticisms and demands than are the daughters. The Twenty Six Malignant Gates are stories of the daughters and how they are hurt in their childhood. The opening passage describes a mother forbidding her daughter to ride around the corner because she will get hurt. The young girl protests and “jumps on her bicycle, and in her hurry to get away, she falls before she even reachs the corner” (Tan,87).
Additionally, this passage foreshadows the troubled lives of the daughters and how they cannot comprehend what their mothers expect of them. In retaliation, each daughter rebels. Waverly, at childhood a chess prodigy, quits chess to hurt her mother, but hurts herself instead. Rose, who is a timid person whose husband divorces her and demands possession of their home, says she has no choice in divorce. Lena St. Clair, who is Ying-ying St.
Clairs daughter, will not learn , until “after seeing her mother’s disappointed face once again, something inside of her begins to die” (Tan,144). The next section is ironically titled American Translation. The daughters are an American translation of their mothers. Therefore, they are struggling, now as adults, to come to terms with their mothers as fellow adults and their seemingly secret knowledge. June realizes “they are frightened.” In herself, the other mothers see their own daughters, just as ignorant, just as unmindful of all the truths and hopes they have brought to America” (Tan,31). Again, the conflict of an immigrant mother and and American child is played out.
The final section, Queen Mother of the Western Skies, brings the stories full circle. The life stories are finished by the mothers. They are stories of lost innocence. The mothers see themselves as their daughters. A sense of completion ends the novel; each mother will help each daughter re-balance their lives; thus, balancing direction.
Important to the structure is the placement of each of the four sections. They read mother, daughter, mother. It is a framed novel, ending with the same set narrators as the beginning. By separating the stories, it never causes too much of a bias. Of course there is a temporary sympathy to the current narrator, but underlying that is an understanding of the previous narrator.
Additionally, it might be assumed that there would be a tendency to think of the mothers as one person because their situations are so similar. But that is the beauty of the book. Each character has her own personality, even though the organization groups them together. This simply emphasizes that coming to America is a singular process, and not everyone does it in this way. In Amy Tan’s novel there is one episode, “Waiting Between the Trees,” illustrating major concerns facing Chinese-American women.
Living with their traditional culture in American society, Chinese-American women suffer the problems of culture conflicts. While their American spouses are active and assertive, they are passive and place their happiness entirely on the goodness of their husbands. At one time, this passiveness can be seen as a virtue; at other time, it is a vice or a weakness. In studying the lives of two personalities, Ying-Ying and Lena St. Clair, a Chinese mother and a half-Chinese daughter, one can see these conflicts more clearly and determine why they exist. For example, Ying-Ying St.
Clair was born into a rich family. She was very pretty when she was a young girl. She was educated like every Chinese woman used to be: To be obedient, to honor one’s parents, one’s husband and to try to please him and his family. Ying-Ying was not expected to have her own will and make her own way through life. The result of this education was a disaster. S …