My journey reading ‘The Joy Luck Club’ has been long and tumultuous, but at the end of it, I realized that I did enjoy the book more than I thought I would. In my previous post related to it, I expressed my love for the stories we were given of the mothers’ and their lives, and I would say they were still the most agreeable parts of the book. The most prevalent themes in “The Joy Luck Club” were about family especially related to cultural differences and misunderstandings. We read of the daughters (June, Rose, Waverly and Lena) being embarassed over their mothers’ actions and their mothers (Suyuan, An-Mei, Lindo and Ying-Ying) expressing disappointment over their daughters’ choices and development into “American” women instead of Chinese. These problems are developed and explored and that becomes a strong main point (an interesting one as well).
Picking one line or paragraph to summarize the novel is difficult, but I have managed to choose one.
“This is how a daughter honors her mother. It is shou so deep it is in your bones. The pain of the flesh is nothing. The pain you must forget. Because sometimes that is the only way to remember what is in your bones. You must peel off your skin, and that of your mother, and her mother before her. Until there is nothing. No scar, no skin, no flesh.”
The paragraph was a part of An-Mei Hsu’s story. Out of context, it may seem strange (in context, it’s actually still very strange). Her mother was a rich man’s concubine, his Fourth Wife and she was shunned by her family for it. When her mother, called Popo by An-Mei, became sick, she came back and cooked her some soup, complete with a piece of flesh she cut out of her own arm that was supposed to rid Popo of her illness.
What I would think of as the main storyline was June and Suyuan’s, where we found out that Suyuan had left her babies during the Japanese invasion as a way of ensuring their survival, hoping for a kind soul to take them in, since she herself was sick and would probably die (she actually survived and spent the rest of her life hoping to find her daughters again). This shows another story of the strength you acquire trying to save or help someone you love.
Lindo Jong’s story also uses this. She was forced to marry her neighbor’s son at a young age, and even though she did not care for him, nor he for her, she kept her chin up and her head high, doing what she had to do to maintain her family’s pride. The last of the of the four mothers, Ying-Ying, expresses disappointment in her daughter’s meek and passive attitude in the face of her husband’s unkindness and unfairness towards her. She tells her own story, when she married a man because she felt it was her fate and his subsequent abusive and unfaithful, attempting to awaken the Tiger Lena has in her.
What these women do, more so than their daughters, is for their families, for their families’ reputation, honor and dignity. Being from a family and country that puts extreme trust into their families, I could connect extremely with these women and their determination to do what they could do for their flesh and blood. I would not feed my mother my flesh (I don’t think she would want me to, either) but there are quite a few things that I would do to ensure my parents’ happiness. If that was the way to remember what I had in my bones, I would do it and leave no scar, no skin, no flesh.