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The Joy Luck Club

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It has been said that America has no single tradition but rather is a melting pot of people from various backgrounds and ethnicities. During the 20th century a new wave of immigration to the United States took place bringing with it a new classification of American. However due to the intimidating cultural and social standards of the United States assimilation was inevitable. In reading Amy Tan's thought provoking novel "The Joy Luck Club," I am reminded of what has been termed for many decades as the "American Dream." Based on the foundations of the Declaration of Independence, this dream entails the idea that we are all, regardless of race or creed, entitled to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Every human has the right and the drive to pursue a better life. This ideal is more or less the way America is viewed by immigrants who come to this country fleeing hardship. However, the stereotypical American sentiment is often portrayed as one of laziness. American's are often considered to be selfish, unappreciative, and unaware of the vast resources available to them. In Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club, Tan gives an objective account of Asian assimilation in to American culture. Tan renders the native-born Asian American daughters in a stereotypical manner regarding their lack of appreciation for their opportunities and the lack of respect or interest they exhibit regarding the tradition and cultural values of their mothers.

In America, there is a great deal of tolerance, but very little acceptance. In the beginning of The Joy Luck Club, Jing Mei Woo is an Asian American woman who is asked to travel to China to fulfill her recently deceased mother's wish for reconciliation with her lost twin daughters. Jing Mei Woo will be responsible for telling her lost sisters the story of her mother's life. Jing expresses doubt when asked to complete this task because she feels she does not really know her mother. Her aunts are shocked by this response proclaiming, "Imagine, a daughter not knowing her own mother!" (Tan 40). At this point Jing realizes their fear. "In me, they see their own daughters, just as ignorant, just as unmindful of all the truths and hopes they have brought to America. They see daughters who grow impatient when their mothers talk in Chinese, who think they are stupid when they explain things in broken English" (Tan 40). Tan is demonstrating the stereotypical native born American's inability to understand the sacrifices and the courage that one must have to immigrate to this country. The daughters lack of knowledge and appreciation for all the hopes and opportunity their mothers wished to bestow on them is a running theme throughout the novel. She goes on to explain, "they see that joy and luck do not mean the same thing to their daughters, that to these closed American-born minds 'joy luck' is not a word, it does not exist" (Tan 41). Amy Tan writes as if there is a lack of purity and hope in Americans that is greatly instilled in Chinese tradition. In the section entitled "the Red Candle," Lindo disapproves of her daughter Waverly's ideas about promise. She says, "I once sacrificed my life to keep my parent's promise. This means nothing to you, because to you promises mean nothing. A daughter can promise to come to dinner, but if she has a headache, if she has a traffic jam, if she wants to watch a favorite movie on TV, she no longer has a promise" (Tan 49). Tan is portraying the American label of being dishonest and the American idea of individualism that supports the notion that one can do what he wants when he wants. There is no need to consult family. There is no importance placed on honor or tradition. Americans are not taught to respect authority; in fact Americans have always been stereotypically portrayed as rebels or independents. The self is seen as more important than the family as a unit, which is the opposite in Chinese culture. Traditionally they are taught to respect and honor their elders. Old translates to wise in Chinese culture. In American, old translates to incapable and there is no place for them, it is considered to be most undesirable in a culture which emphasizes youth and physical beauty. Tan implies that American's will result to falsity rather than truth if the circumstance happens to coincide with personal gain or desires. Lindo Jong tells the story of an American soldier who promises to come back and marry the girl who loves him. He says "my promise is as good as gold," but he in fact does not come back. She tells her daughter," His gold is like yours, it is only fourteen carats. To Chinese people, fourteen carats isn't real gold. Feel my bracelets. They must be twenty-four carats, pure inside and out" (Tan 49).

Americans tend to be born with a sense of entitlement or superiority. This idea does not appear to stem from any notion in particular other than the simple fact of being born on US soil. Because of this sentiment, native-born



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