What are some of the life lessons taught in The Joy Luck Club? I was able to write about one lesson but it's not giving me enough to write a five page paper. I have a horrible time with reading...

What are some of the life lessons taught in The Joy Luck Club?

I was able to write about one lesson but it's not giving me enough to write a five page paper. I have a horrible time with reading comprehension.

Asked on by dannikay

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Three lessons in The Joy Luck Club are you should not judge people because you can never understand their experiences, winning isn’t everything, and the American Dream is a myth.

One of the reasons you are having difficulty coming up with enough detail for your paper might be that you are not providing enough textual support.  Try providing examples of each lesson, with textual support from the book to back up what you are saying.  This will fully develop your ideas.  You will want to choose the quotes to support what you say, and then fully explain and describe them.

For the first example, you should not judge people because you can never understand their experiences, consider that this situation cuts both ways.  Each of the mother-daughter relationships involves misunderstanding and miscommunication between mothers and daughters, because they are each judging each other without understanding what the other went through.  Jing-mei/June considers her mother overbearing and forceful, because she tries to make her take piano lessons that June does not want to take.  It never occurs to June that her mother had to make an unthinkable choice and leave two of her own babies in China to come to America.  When June finally learns this, it is a shock to her.

I think about this.  My mother’s long-cherished wish.  Me, the younger sister who was supposed to be the essence of the others.  I feed myself with the old grief, wondering how disappointed she must have been. (A Pair of Tickets)

This incident demonstrates that you really never can know what is in a person’s heart.  There are so many reasons people do what they do, and they can be borne of deep-seated grief.  June hated those piano lessons, and her mother trying to turn her into a prodigy, but it was because she missed her other daughters, and she was trying to fill a void by making life good for the one she had.

Another daughter, Waverly, demonstrates that winning isn’t everything with her story.  Waverly becomes a chess prodigy not because she is pushed, but because she loves the game.  However, when her success becomes the source of ego for her mother and family, the game becomes less fun for Waverly.  She finally has enough of it and accosts her mother with a question that is bratty but pointed.

“Why do you have to use me to show off? If you want show off, then why don’t you learn to play chess?” (The Rules of the Game)

This incident humiliates her mother and drives a wedge between them, but demonstrates the problem with the situation.  For Waverly, chess used to be something that was hers.  It was something she was good at, and something she enjoyed.  By using it as something to brag about her, her mother co-opted it and effectively ruined it for her.  Young Waverly could not cope, and did not know how to explain to her mother that the pressure to win was ruining the game for her.

The myth of the American Dream is a common thread throughout all of the mothers’ stories.  They all came to America hoping for a better life for their families, and what they found was a hard life.  Even for the daughters as they get older and try to form families of their own, life is hard.  They find it difficult to have healthy relationships because of the scars left by the horrors their mothers faced in their struggles to get to America.

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dannikay | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

Thank you. It seems my problem when reading the literature assigned in these classes is that I cannot see beyond the literal meanings of things the authors say. If the book does not say "the American Dream is a myth" somewhere, I don't really catch it until it's pointed out to me. (With that said, it's probably a good thing I am not planning on becoming an English teacher!)

Thanks again, I think this helped a lot. 

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