Shu-Huei Henrickson, an instructor of English at Rock Valley College in Rockford, Illinois, wrote a criticism on the novel and explores the reasons for the popularity of The Joy Luck Club and the various narrative techniques used by the author to give life to the conflict and resentment that arise between a mother and a daughter in the novel. In his criticism, Hendrickson initially introduced the background of the author and listed the novels that she has written. A comparison was also made between Amy Tans narrative style and that of other ethnic authors in the Asian American Literature.
He believes that the success of the novel is due to Tans excellent treatment of the mother/daughter relationship. Normally texts of mother/daughter focus on the daughters struggles for identity and the mothers supporting role position. In the case of this novel, the central focus is on the lives of the mothers. Hendrickson quoted another critic, Maria Heungs description of The Joy Luck Club who said, What distinguishes Tans text from other ethnic novels is the foregrounding of the voices of mothers as well as of daughters.
This unique style makes The Joy Luck Club an outstanding Asian American literature. Hendrickson further analyzes Amy Tans narrative techniques. He pointed out that the authors first narrative technique uses multiple points of view in recounting the stories. In these four pairs of mothers and daughters stories, there are sixteen interlocking tales. The stories are divided into two parts, one for the daughters and one for the mothers. The mothers are all depicted as strong and determined women who play significant roles in the daughters lives.
Hendrickson considers this as a unique technique. In Jing-Mei Woos story (Two Kinds), a high standard of maternal expectation is manifested as Jing Meis mother forces her to practice playing the piano. This vivid depiction shows the significant role of the mother in the story. Through the significant presence of the mothers, Tan reinforces the conflict between the mothers and daughters that stems from their cultural and generation differences. In addition, misunderstanding arises due to their linguistic differences.
Hendrickson believes that the central theme of The Joy Luck Club is the lack of shared languages and cultural logic between the Chinese immigrant mothers and the American-born daughters. Nevertheless, the mothers are not given any insignificant roles in the stories and their concerns are noteworthy in this novel. The second narrative technique that Hendrickson pointed out is the presence of realistic dialogues. In the story, the mothers are speaking imperfect English. Tan directly captures these dialogues and clearly shows it to the readers.
Thus, the linguistic and cultural differences between the mothers and daughters are directly felt throughout the story. This is one of the remarkable features of the novel. Hendrickson also criticized the racial identity and the concluding part of Jing-Meis story. However, this part will not be discussed since it is no longer related to the chapter, Two Kinds. Hendrickson considers the mothers in The Joy Luck Club as heroines. They are different in comparison with other Asian American literature that has portrayed them as discreet and modest.
Because of their significant presence and Tans unique narrative techniques, The Joy Luck Club is considered as a special and excellent literary work. Response: The chapter, Two Kinds may provide us with a minute idea of the existing conflict between two generations of women who were raised in two different environments the mothers in an oriental country and the daughters in a western environment. However, without the benefit of viewing the film and reading the novel, one would not be able to imbibe the conflicting reality of seeing families of the same race living in conflict as a result of generation and cultural differences.
Fortunately, I have seen the film, The Joy Luck Club a few years ago and without a doubt, the movie is great. Although I have not read the entire book, I could only imagine the novel to be as good if not better. Personally, I agree with the critic, Shu-Huei Hendricksons opinion in the conflict between Suyuan (mother) and Jing-Mei (daughter). The daughter, Jing-Mei was born in the United States while the mother, Suyuan was born in China, and later immigrated to the US. In most family situations, mothers and daughters tend to establish a close bond but this kind of relationship was not present between Suyuan and Jing-Mei.
Both were emotionally apart and they have not developed a close relationship. Since Jing-Mei was raised in a country where freedom of choice abounds, her young mind could not accept her mothers desire to have a daughter who is willing to obey and follow everything that a mother says. Forcing her to take piano lessons against her wishes only made their relationship worst. On the other hand, Suyuan does not understand her daughters desire to establish her own identity and independence. For Suyuan, the road to success in the US requires one to speak the American language fluently.
Hence, she compelled Jing-Mei to speak in perfect English. Suyuan desires the best for her daughter as she does not want her to experience the painful life that she had in China. This however was not fully accepted by Jing-Mei. Language barrier and cultural gap has widened the difference between the mother and the daughter. Suyuans dream of giving Jing-Mei the best of life is often misunderstood by her daughter who wanted to be free from the clutches of her mother. Since I am a student from China, I can relate to the story than most American readers.
Suyuans hopes and dreams for her daughter are common among parents in my country. In China, people do not enjoy the freedom to do whatever they want. We are not given the opportunity to achieve our dreams. When we set foot in the United States, we want to identify with the Americans and embrace the country that is known as the land of freedom and hope. Our thirst for freedom is so intense. Chinese-American people who were born in the US like Jing-Mei have never experienced the life of those who lived in China during the nineteenth century where freedom never exist and peoples lives were in the hands of the communist government.
I agree with Hendricksons view that Amy Tan uses the first narrative technique in writing her novel effectively. She uses many dialogues that project the voices of mothers and daughters. I can also relate to the challenges of trying to speak English fluently while thinking and translating Chinese words into English when I saw the scene where Suyuan speaks imperfect American English while shouting these words to Jing-Mei, Only ask you be your best.
For your sake. You think I want you be genius? Hnnh! What for! Who ask you! Amy Tan has mastered the use of narrative technique in ways that many writers could not imagine. Her unique and effective techniques have drawn many readers to read her novel, watch the movie and relate to the challenges of two generations of women who are living in the land where freedom abounds and dreams turn into reality.