Study Guide

The Joy Luck Club Transformation

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In The Joy Luck Club, most of the transformations are accomplished through a combination of understanding and life circumstances. As the daughters in this novel grow up, their understanding of their mothers changes, transforming the mothers (at least in their eyes) from overly-concerned and embarrassing old ladies into sympathetic figures. And the circumstances that surround moving to American change the older generation in a fundamental, albeit confusing, way.

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

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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