Study Guide

The Joy Luck Club Family

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The most important familial connection within The Joy Luck Club is the relationship between mothers and daughters.

From the perspective of the mothers, a mother passes on her strengths and weaknesses to her daughters. She also has a responsibility toward them – to provide them with a good future, steer them from harm, teach them about life as best as she can, and keep them from making the same mistakes she did. The role of the daughter is to respect, listen to, and learn from their mothers. The mothers in this novel express their love in a variety of (mostly traditional Chinese) ways.

The daughters are frequently baffled by their mothers, and the love that the daughters feel is typically late-blooming. The daughters tend to think that the role of the mother is to be unconditionally kind, supportive, and encouraging. Despite their idealized notion of a mother, in reality, they often feel criticized and pressured by their mothers. They also worry that they don’t live up to their mothers’ high expectations. In the end, though, the daughters find a strong and loving connection with their mothers.

Questions About Family

  1. How do the mothers express their love for their daughters? How do the daughters express their love for their mothers? How are the forms of showing love different.
  2. What are the similarities in all the mother-daughter stories?
  3. Compare and contrast the relationships Suyuan, Ying-ying, An-mei, and Lindo had with their own mothers to the relationships these women have with their daughters. Is it less intense? More forgiving? More confusing?
  4. Would you say that the characters’ mothers are really in their bones, to use An-mei’s expression? In what ways?
  5. Why don’t we see much in the way of relationships between fathers and daughters or mothers and sons? Is this book arguing that the mother-daughter connection is closer than the father-daughter or mother-son connection? If so, in what ways is the bond closer?

Chew on This

By American standards, the way the mothers in The Joy Luck Club express their love is very severe.

With the exception of Jing-mei, each of the daughters in the novel mirrors her mother’s strengths and weaknesses.

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