Study Guide

The Joy Luck Club Writing Style

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Writing Style

Tapestry of Loose Threads

If you're really into books that start "Once upon a time," and the go step by step through the plot, The Joy Luck Club is probably not your cup of tea.

Amy Tan's writing style can feel disjointed, disorganized, and even a little hectic. But that's one of the beautiful things about this book: it's not going to give you a single story that marches in straightforward fashion from A to Z.  Instead, the novel is about rendering the experience of a community of people, which is best accomplished through Tan's writing-as-tapestry approach.

What do we mean by that? Well, one way to think of the stories that make up this book, and of the eight different storytellers that tell them, is different squares on a quilt. Sure, each square is added individually, but they all hold together to create a general impression.

Not with us yet? Well, check this out:

The gray-green surface changes to the bright colors of our three images, sharpening and deepening all at once. And although we don't speak, I know we all see it: Together we look like our mother. Her same eyes, her same mouth, open in surprise to see, at last, her long-cherished wish. (IV.4.146)

In this passage, Tan nicely encapsulates what her choice of writing style is all about. Sure, Jing-mei and her sisters are individuals (in the same way the stories in the book are individual stories), but together they also create a single impression.

And, taken as a whole, though, Tan's writing style—using a variety of voices, languages even moving back and forth through time—creates its own singular impression of how all these women experience their lives in America.

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