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The Joy Luck Club

by Amy Tan

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What did the daughters in The Joy Luck Club teach their mothers?

The daughters in The Joy Luck Club teach their mothers that the mothers' ingrained passivity and emotional repression can have damaging effects on relationships and lives.

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Through watching their daughters' struggles in adult life, the mothers in The Joy Luck Club learn more fully how they themselves have been damaged by their culture and how they have unwittingly passed that damage to their daughters.

These Chinese women have been taught to be passive and to hide their emotions. They repress their own desires in relationships, always putting the man first. However, they experience distress when they see their daughters harmed by replicating this behavior.

For example, An-Mei is upset when she realizes she has taught her daughter Rose not to speak up and communicate her needs. During her divorce, for instance, Rose avoids communicating to her husband that she wants the house. Likewise, Ying-Ying has passed on a submissive attitude to her daughter, Lena, who allows herself to be taken advantage of by her American husband. Although Lena and Harold are supposed to each finance their own lives, Ying-Ying sees that Lena subsidizes her husband's consumption of ice cream, a food Lena doesn't eat.

From realizing how Chinese cultural norms sometimes disadvantage their daughters, the older women gain a new perspective. Women like Ying-Ying, because of their deep love for their daughters, try to change so that they can model healthier ways of being for their daughters.

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