In Amy Tan's novel The Joy Luck Club, what are some themes, tones, and narrative styles of the chapter titled "Best Quality"?

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vangoghfan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Amy Tan’s novel The Joy Luck Club, the chapter titled “Best Quality” is narrated by Jing-Mei Woo. Some of the themes, tones, and narrative styles of the chapter might be described as follows:


  • Relations between mothers and daughters, especially in Chinese-American culture.
  • Death and grief.
  • Relations among Chinese Americans.
  • Chinese-American rituals, such as Chinese New Year celebrations.
  • Relations between Chinese Americans and non-Chinese Americans.
  • Changes in cultures from one generation to the next.
  • Submerged tensions in conversations.
  • Competition among “friends.”
  • Pride and humiliation.
  • Relations between the past and the present, between childhood and adulthood.
  • Self-reflection and self-acceptance.



  • Nostalgic, as the narrator recalls her now-dead mother.
  • Humor, as when the narrator’s mother complains about a troublesome cat: “That cat always raising his tail to put stink on my door.”
  • Irony and sarcasm, as in some of Waverly’s remarks and in some of the narrator’s retorts to Waverly.
  • Affectionate, as in the conversation between the mother and narrator at the end of the chapter.



  • Personal reminiscence, as in the frequent use of “I” in this chapter.
  • Emphasis on Chinese-inflected English, as when the mother says of her tenants,

“And they take bath, two three times every day. Running the water, running, running, running, never stop!”

  • Comedy derived from cultural misunderstanding, as when the narrator’s mother says of someone,

“. . .  that man, he raise his hand like this, show me his ugly fist and call me worst Fukien landlady. I not from Fukien. Hunh! He know nothing!”

  • Dialogue, especially in the conversations between the narrator and her mother.
  • Lucid narration, using simple words and uncomplicated sentence patterns.
  • Tension and growing suspense, as we wonder how the barbed conversation between Waverly and the narrator will turn out.
  • Irony, as in the unexpected outcome of the dialogue between the narrator and Waverly.
  • Symmetry, as in the way the chapter begins by referring to a necklace and ends by referring to the same necklace.


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The Joy Luck Club

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