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The Joy Luck Club

The Joy Luck Club

by Amy Tan

Transformation Theme

In The Joy Luck Club, most of the transformations are accomplished through hope, understanding, and life circumstances. Hope, for example, allows people and objects to become more than they really are. New understanding and empathy can also change people in the eyes of another character. A prime example is how the mothers can change from enemies into concerned Chinese mothers as the daughters come to better understand their mothers’ intentions. The women in the novel are also transformed through certain experiences that fundamentally change their characters, such as living in America and becoming somewhat Americanized.

Questions About Transformation

  1. Who transforms in this novel? Is it all of the women? In what ways do they change?
  2. Why is Waverly so afraid of her mother’s comments? Isn’t her mother just pointing out the truth? (Like, Rich really does have freckles…)
  3. In the last chapter, Jing-mei "becomes" Chinese when she enters China. Why does she need to enter China for this to happen? Do you buy her mom’s argument that Chinese-ness can be passed down through DNA?
  4. What is the significance of the duck transforming into a swan?
  5. What are the engines of transformation in this novel.

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Waverly imbues her mother’s words with a strength they would not ordinarily have, allowing her mother’s off-hand comments to alter her perceptions and beliefs.

In The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan employs transformations primarily as a symbol of hope or, conversely, hopelessness.

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