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Notes on The Joy Luck Club Themes

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The Joy Luck Club Topic Tracking: Mothers and Daughters

Chapter 1

Mothers and Daughters 1: Jing-mei thinks often about how little she knew her mother. She knows she disappointed her mother all the time, and they were never able to completely accept each other. The other Joy Luck mothers see themselves and their daughters in Suyuan and Jing-mei, and it scares them. They want the best for their daughters: they want them to be Chinese and American. But they worry that the daughters have rejected their mothers' ambitions for them, not caring about Chinese traditions and hating their mothers' strange customs.

Chapter 2

Mothers and Daughters 2: An-mei, who was forced to try to hate or forget her mother for most of her life, began to love her when she saw how much she loved her grandmother. An-mei understood that her mother's love was deeper than any pain Popo had caused her. It was stronger than suffering--it was in her bones. For the first time, An-mei, who was raised for the most part without a mother, understood the power of mother/daughter relationships.

Chapter 5

Mothers and Daughters 3: Though Lindo is clearly proud of Waverly, Waverly's success drives a wedge between them. Waverly feels like they are competing, instead of her mother supporting her. She thinks her mother is trying to take credit for her success. This makes her so angry that she runs away from her mother, but when she finally comes home, they cannot talk to each other and resolve their problems, because her mother coldly ignores her.

Chapter 6

Mothers and Daughters 4: Lena is ashamed of her mother, but, like Waverly, she knows she has learned a lot from her too. For Lena, however, the knowledge is almost entirely bad: her mother has taught her to be afraid, and to bend to other people's wishes. Lena hates these qualities in her mother, but she can't stop herself from adopting them.

Chapter 10

Mothers and Daughters 5: Waverly remembers every time her mother hurt her, because Lindo understands her daughter so well that she knows just which little comment or look will be most painful for Waverly. Waverly, a successful lawyer, feels defenseless against her mother, even though she is very strong in many other respects. Somehow, her mother always manages to catch her off guard, which is why Waverly feels close to her but also hates her in some ways.

Mothers and Daughters 6: Waverly and Lindo fight viciously and hurt each other often, but once they begin to see each other as people, they start to become friends. They no longer view each other in simple roles: the bullying mother and the disobedient daughter. Waverly tries to understand Lindo's past, and Lindo sees that Waverly can make her own decisions.

Chapter 11

Mothers and Daughters 7: Rose used to feel opposed to her mother, and afraid of her. She wanted to keep her out of her life, and felt more comfortable talking to her psychiatrist than to her mother. She felt that An-mei didn't understand her. But when An-mei called her to tell her that the most important thing was standing up for herself, rather than saving her marriage, Rose began to feel closer to her. She finally had a dream about her mother that was not threatening, but rather friendly.

Chapter 12

Mothers and Daughters 8: Suyuan knows how to hurt June so well that sometimes June doesn't feel like her mother cares about her at all. Suyuan often tells June things that June knows are supposed to have deep meaning, but June doesn't understand. The night of the New Year's dinner, however, Suyuan shows that she both loves and understands her daughter. When she gives her her "life's importance," she is creating a bond with her daughter that lasts even if after she dies. June knows this now because before her mother died, she never wore the pendant, but now, she finds herself wearing it every day.

Chapter 13

Mothers and Daughters 9: An-mei sees how much her mother loved her, and uses her mother's death and pain to change her own life. She feels the bond between them, not broken, but actually strengthened by her mother's death. Though everyone always told her that her mother was wicked, in the short time before her mother's death, she begins to understand who her mother really is, and how similar they are.

Chapter 16

Mothers and Daughters 10: When she finally meets her mother's other daughters, June feels like she understands herself completely for the first time. She knows what part of her is Chinese. Though she has always felt that she is nothing like her mother, when she and her two sisters stand together, they somehow seem to make up their mother. June seems to understand that part of her is American, but part of her is Chinese too, and part of her comes from her mother's history.

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