The Joy Luck Club
Women and Femininity Theme
For the mothers in this novel, and the mothers of the mothers, life as a woman was extremely restrictive in China. The model wife and daughter-in-law is an obedient, filial woman who works hard, bears many children, never complains, and hides her own unhappiness. She has worth only in relation to other people – her sons, husband, and in-laws – and never any personal, inherent worth. After such a world, America is liberating. Part of the reason the mothers go to America is for their daughters to have a better life; their sons will be basically okay wherever, but for the females, quality of life is dramatically improved in America. Despite being more liberated in America, the role of the mother continues to be extremely important.
Questions About Women and Femininity
- The first parable includes a woman who hopes that in America her daughter’s worth won’t be "measured by the loudness of her husband’s belch." In America how is the worth of the women of this book judged?
- What defines the identity of a woman in China? In America?
- Do all of the women take advantage of their increased freedom in America? If any women don’t, why is this the case?
Chew on This
In America, the daughters in this book are not judged based on the "loudness of their husband’s belch" but based on their educational and career success.