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In Amy Tan’s novel The Joy Luck Club, the chapter titled “Four Directions” is narrated by Waverly Jong. Some of the themes, tones, and narrative styles of the chapter might be described as follows:
- Relations between mothers and daughters.
- Contrasting personalities.
- Assertive mothers.
- Premarital relations and contrasting sexual values.
- The pain parents’ comments can cause their children.
- Strategies and tactics in family relationships.
- The changes that occur in the transitions from one stage of life to the next.
- Romantic love.
- Humorous, as when the mother cleans her chopsticks and washes out her bowl with tea, or when the daughter describes what would happen if she ever told her mother to shut up.
- Colloquial and informal, as in the comments by Marlene Ferber.
- Blunt, sometimes comically blunt, as in the mother’s comments about the restroom, the mink coat, the messy apartment, and Rich’s face.
- Suspenseful, as we wait to see whether the daughter or mother will win the contest of wills, or as we wait to see how the mother will treat Rich.
- Ironic, as when the narrator describes her reaction to images of fetuses and then her reaction to her own daughter, or when the narrator reports about her mother’s relations with a friend:
They were very close, which meant they were ceaselessly tormenting each other with boasts and secrets.
- Emphasis on dialogue to stress contrasting points of view.
- Personal reminiscence.
- Use of anaphora for emphasis, as in the following passage:
I was horrified. I spent many hours every day going over in my mind what I had lost. I knew it was not just the last tournament. I examined . . . [etc.]
- Simple, plain, relatively straightforward “American English” from the narrator, interrupted by the often funny Chinese dialect of the mother, as when the mother explains why she is giving her sick daughter “rice porridge flavored with chicken broth”:
She said she was feeding me this because I had the chicken pox and one chicken knew how to fight another.
- Comedy of manners, as in the description of Rich’s dinner visit.
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