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In Amy Tan’s novel The Joy Luck Club, the chapter titled “The Red Candle” is narrated by Lindo Jong. Some of the themes, tones, and narrative styles of the chapter might be described as follows:
- Traditional life in China, especially for female children, and particularly involving marriage.
- Lack of choice; behavior that is dictated rather than freely selected.
- Contrasts between life in modern America and life in traditional China.
- Status in traditional China, especially differences in status between different families.
- The invasion of China by the Japanese.
- Superstition and ideas of luck.
- Truth about people, or the lack thereof.
- Individuality, as when the narrator says,
I made a promise to myself: I would always remember my parents’ wishes, but I would never forget myself.
- Changes in perceptions of other people.
- The cleverness of the narrator.
- Self-sacrifice and self-respect.
- The tone of this chapter is somewhat bitter at first: Lindo Jong recalls a promise she made and kept, but she also thinks about the modern tendencies of people to forget their promises when they find it convenient to do so.
- A highly personal tone as the mother narrates the story of her own life.
- Tones of frustration, unhappiness, and suppressed anger but also of self-regard.
- Idiomatic phrasing, as when the narrator asks,
Can you see how the Huangs almost washed their thinking into my skin?
Such phrasing helps give the narration credibility while also giving it a kind of exotic appeal.
- Frequent emphasis on the word “I” as the narrator recounts in detail her own history.
- Direct address, as the narrator tells her story to her own daughter, as when she says,
Oh, you think it is so much fun to lie in bed all day, never getting up. But I tell you it was worse than a prison.
- An informal, familiar tone, as in the use of such contractions as “that’s,” “it’s,” “he’s,” “what’s,” etc.
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