The Joy Luck Club
Visions of America Theme
The four older women in the novel have very firm notions about America – some positive, some negative. For the most part, the mothers appreciate the female independence which America allows for. They also strongly believe in the American Dream, that their children can be anything in America, regardless of whether or not they start out poor, so long as they are determined. Overall, the mothers appreciate "American circumstances." What they don’t approve of is "American character"; they see Americans as disrespectful, impolite, dishonest to themselves, unable to keep their thoughts secret, and lacking in self-respect. One mother, Lindo, sums of her desires for her daughter by saying she wanted to provide "American circumstances and Chinese character." This is pretty much representative of what all the mothers want for their daughters – to benefit from the freedoms in America but not to be American.
Questions About Visions of America
- How does the older generation of women view America? Is it positive overall?
- Think about the older generation’s limitations of knowledge regarding America. They live in San Francisco, not the Deep South. How much would that influence their opinions of America, do you think?
- What do Jing-mei’s relatives in China think of America?
- For the older generation of women, did their understanding of America change after they immigrated to the U.S.? Did their understanding of America change as their daughters grew into adults?
Chew on This
The Chinese people in The Joy Luck Club mostly look down on America and Americans.
It would be impossible for Waverly to have "American circumstances and Chinese character" because the two are simply incompatible.