Themes and Meanings (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
In her essay “Mother Tongue,” Amy Tan identifies the reader she envisions for her novel The Joy Luck Club (1986) as her own mother, because these were stories about mothers. Appearing in the novel as a chapter about the major protagonist of the entire novel, “Two Kinds” represents the central theme of the voracious love between mother and daughter and the arduous journey that one already has taken and the other will take both for herself and for her mother. It is a journey of self-discovery made through painful yet joyful connections. Just as June puts her mother’s things in order for her father, she does the same for herself by gathering up her past childhood struggles with her mother, turning them over and examining them, then carefully putting them into order.
In the novel, June retraces her mother’s and her three aunties’ journeys from China to the United States. Initiated by Suyuan Woo’s death at the start of the novel, this long pilgrimage is interwoven with the past and present lives of four Chinese mothers and their four American daughters. June’s mother, as originator of the Joy Luck Club, holds a special place at the mah-jongg table, which must be assumed by her daughter. To complicate June’s life further, her mother’s twin daughters, whom she left in China forty years earlier, have been found alive and well. Now the familial connection between China and the United States is made even stronger by June’s desire to...
(The entire section is 438 words.)
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