What is the purpose of The Joy Luck Club?
The Joy Luck Club is a regularly-scheduled meeting for mothers who have immigrated to San Francisco from their native China. They meet in a church to play mah jong, a traditional game for four players. This meeting of four structures the novel as two mothers, and then two daughters, in turn, become the focus of the narrative.
The Joy Luck Club was originally organized in China by Suyuan Woo during the second World War for herself and three friends as a way to support each other before the Japanese invasion that forced them to emigrate.
When the Joy Luck Club convenes in San Francisco, Suyuan has already died, and her daughter Jing-Mei is chosen to carry on her mother's role. This appointment creates conflict since the American-born daughters do not fully understand or appreciate the history and culture of their mothers. This is disappointing to the mothers who long for their daughters to understand and appreciate their lives, and carry on their cultural traditions.
The purpose of the club, "The Joy Luck Club" in America is to bring good fortune to Suyuan Woo's family and friends while finding joy in the hope of good luck. Suyuan began the club in China in order to lift the spirits of her friends during the Japanese invasion of China. Each of the four Chinese women in the club has her own perspective of life, a perspective based upon her experiences in China. But because it is a perspective that she wishes to share with her American-born daughter, there are conflicts between the generations.
For instance, the younger generation perceives the Joy Luck Club as a shameful Chinese custom. They do not understand the purpose of this club, nor do they understand the desires of their mothers who wish them to maintain ancient Chines customs.