Joy Luck Club
Symbolism in the joy luck club
In the book Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan uses an extraordinary amount of symbolism to tell the reader about her hidden themes. Amy Tan’s hidden themes include motherhood , mother- daughter relationships, culture, and the changing of one's culture, innocence as well as the loss of it. Each of her 4 prologs set the theme for the block of chapters and symbolise what Amy Tanis portraying to the reader.
“The old woman remembered a swan she had bought many years ago in Shanghai for a foolish sum. This bird, boasted the market vendor, was once a duck that stretched its neck in hopes of becoming a goose, and now look! – it is too beautiful to eat.“On her journey she cooed to the swan: "In America I will have a daughter just like me. But over there nobody will say her worth is measured by the loudness of her husband’s belch. Over there nobody will look down on her, because I will make her speak only perfect American English."(p17).” Then after admiring the swan the immigration officials take the “swan” and the women is is left with a single feather hoping that one day she would be able to give it to her daughter.The symbolism starts with the duck in the shanghai market stretching its neck in hopes of becoming a goose and over achieves its goal and becomes a beautiful swan. This impossible seeming change reflects the journey each mother takes in their life journey.. This striving to be something better than great is passed down to each of their daughters. In addition, the swan being taken symbolises the mothers not being able to give their children everything from China.They will always have the essence of China as symbolized by the feather, but they will never experience the full culture.
“You cannot put mirrors at the foot of the bed. All your marriage happiness will bounce back and turn the opposite way.” “Well that's the only place it fits so that’s where it stays said the daughter, irritated at her mother for seeing bad omens in everything.”(p147).In responseto the daughter’s lack of cultural beliefs, the mother puts a small mirror at the front of the bed.This act is to ensure that the marital energy was protected.Mirrors hold many meanings in all cultures.In Chinese culture Feng Shui is prominent.Per the energy ofFeng Shui the mirror doubles energy and luck.Placing a mirrorat the end of the marital bed therefore doubles the luck of those sleeping in the bed andinvites a third party to the relationship. Some others say that the mirror facing the bed depletes your personal energy.The mother putting the smallmirror at the front of the bed would negate the effects of the mirror at the foot of the bed and would maintain the marriage energy thus keeping the marriage alive. Another instance of symbolism is the daughter’s irritationwith the mother’s suggestion to not put the mirror at the foot of the bed.The daughter has grown up outside of the Chinese culture and has little respect for its beliefs and ways of life.In essence she has little respect for her Mother.She dismisses her mother’s beliefs and is irritated by the “foolishness” of them.The mother realizes that her daughter is foreign to the ways of her Chinese heritage;balance and respect of elders.“What is peach-blossom luck?”the mother smiled, mischief in her eyes. “It is in here,” she said, pointing to the mirror. It is my future grandchild already sitting on my lap next spring.” and the daughter looked-and haule! There it was: her own reflection looking back at her.)(p147)
The peach blossom luck relates to the marriage essence.The mirror is a symbolic window to see what will blossom from the marriage. The mother looks into the mirror and sees her future grandchild.She is seeing a blessed and fruitful marriage.One filled with love and joy.
“Is the buddha teaching you to laugh for no reason?”as the baby continued to gurgle the woman felt a deep wish stirring in her heart.”even if i could live forever,” she said to the baby,”I still don't know which way i would teach you, I was once so free and innocent. I too laughed for no reason.”but later i threw away my foolish innocence to protect myself. And then i taught my daughter, your mother, to shed her innocence so she would not be hurt as well.”hwai dungsyi, was this kind of thinking wrong?(p213)The baby symbolizes innocence andhappiness. The grandmother symbolises a dark pessimistic view on society. When the grandmother also shed her daughter’s innocence it is not her doing it, it is her daughter growing up and accepting the pessimistic view because the innocent one became too dangerous. Then thegrandmotherrealises her selfishness by stealing the mothers happiness. She realizes you don't have to have a pessimistic view on society to be protected from it.“The baby laughed, listening to her grandmother's laments.”O!O! You say you are laughing because you have already lived forever, over and over again? You say you are Syi Wang Mu, Queen Mother of the Western Skies, now come back to give me the answer! Good, good I am listening….(p213)In this quote tha baby symbolises the answer the grandmother is looking for. The regainingof happiness that was robbed from her just like the happiness that she robbed from her daughter. This quote also proves that instead of the theme of mother knows bestthat daughters can teach their mothers as well.
In conclusion Amy Tan uses symbolism throughout her book the Joy Luck Club to explain her cultural beliefs and the dissolution of them in the American upbringing in a manner that the reader can understand and relate to.