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Notes on The Joy Luck Club Themes

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The Joy Luck Club Topic Tracking: Strength

Chapter 3

Strength 1: On the day of her wedding, Lindo finally realizes that obeying her parents doesn't mean forgetting herself. She understands that no matter what she might be forced to do, no one can take away her identity. Knowing this, and knowing it is a secret, makes her strong and proud, even as she goes out to face what could be the worst day of her life. Then Lindo, who had always been obedient and quiet, took matters into her own hands. She blew out her husband's end of the candle. She was afraid, but not so afraid that it prevented her from doing what she wanted.

Strength 2: Lindo still thinks of herself as the young girl who was forced to marry a man she didn't like, because that was a defining time in her life. It was the time when she realized that she didn't have to accept her fate: she could change it if she wanted to. She was expected to live the rest of her life in a small village in China, but instead, she went alone to America.

Chapter 4

Strength 3: Ying-ying is a striking contrast to Lindo. While Lindo found herself, Ying-ying asked to be found. She did not have the strength to oppose the people in her life who were telling her to sit still and be quiet. Instead, she followed their orders, just wishing someone would save her from them. As an old woman, she recognizes that she gave up her identity very early in her life.

Chapter 6

Strength 4: Lena wants to avoid becoming fearful like her mother, but sometimes she can't help it. She desperately wants her life to change, but she feels helpless, until she meets her young neighbor. Teresa is effortlessly confident and brave. Lena wants to give her mother strength like Teresa and her mother have, and after her short talk with Teresa, she begins to believe she can do it.

Chapter 8

Strength 5: June thinks she is being strong and independent when she opposes her mother, but as an adult, she seems to believe that she was just being defiant. She did not want her mother to dominate her, so she tried to find her own identity. But since her identity consisted of her arguing with her mother and ruining her own pursuits (she was so mad at her mother that she never learned to play the piano), she was always unhappy. Now she seems to understand that being strong does not always mean being stubborn.

Chapter 9

Strength 6: Lena believes she has the power to kill someone with her mind, but she is not strong enough to tell Harold that she doesn't want ice cream. She understands her own strengths perfectly within her mind, but cannot explain them to anyone else. She often thinks her way into unhappiness: rather than simply deciding that Harold is too obsessed with money, she worries about what she specifically wants from him. It is partly this confusion that keeps her too weak to leave Harold.

Chapter 11

Strength 7: Rose always felt inferior to Ted, and let him push her around. So she is immensely proud of herself when she finally stands up to him, particularly because it is over something so important. He is trying to push her out of the house, forget she exists, and replace her with another woman. Rose suddenly realizes that she will not accept that. She loves the house, and is willing to fight for it, even though she is afraid of Ted. When she sees how powerful her words are, she feels even stronger.

Chapter 13

Strength 8: An-mei, though filled with sorrow, learns to find strength in her mother's death. She believes what her mother told her before she died: she was dying to give An-mei a stronger spirit than her own. An-mei stands up to Second Wife and "learns to shout." She sees that her mother's suicide was an act of great strength of will: she gave up everything so her children could have a better life than she did.

Chapter 14

Strength 9: Ying-ying willingly gives up her chi, her spirit, because she believes it is what brought her so much pain in the first place. She becomes, she says, like a ghost, who never objects or even lets her opinion be known. In order to avoid sadness, she decides to feel nothing at all. She marries Clifford because he is nice to her and she knows he will be a good husband. She asks for nothing from life, and seems to want nothing.

Chapter 16

Strength 10: Though June at first has no self-confidence in China, she begins to feel more comfortable. She seems to have conquered the pain of her mother's death, the frustration at never having known her, by meeting her mother's other daughters. She feels that she has fulfilled her mother's greatest wish, and has thus found her own kind of reconciliation with her mother.

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