Study Guide

The Joy Luck Club Women and Femininity

By Amy Tan

Women and Femininity

The mothers in The Joy Luck Club grew up with an incredibly restrictive idea of what it meant to be a woman. The model wife and daughter-in-law was an obedient, filial woman who worked hard, bore many children, never complained, and hid her own unhappiness. She had 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. And, despite being more liberated in America, the role of the mother continues to be extremely important.

Questions About Women and Femininity

  1. 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?
  2. What defines the identity of a woman in China? In America?
  3. 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.