In Amy Tan’s novel The Joy Luck Club, the chapter titled “Rice Husband” is narrated by Lena St. Clair. Some of the themes, tones, and narrative styles of the chapter might be described as follows:
- Relations between mothers and daughters.
- Superstitions and premonitions.
- Marital tensions.
- Different assumptions about costs and expenditures.
- Recollections of the past and the question of the past’s relationship with the present.
- Self-disparagement, as in the narrator’s early sense that she was not worthy of Harold, who eventually became her husband.
- Humorous tones rooted in clashes of perspective, as when Harold explains the cost of details of the couple’s house to the narrator’s mother:
“. . . this wood floor. It’s hand-bleached. And the walls here, this marbleized effect, it’s hand-sponged. It’s really worth it.”
And my mother nods and agrees: “Bleach and sponge cost so much.”
- Ironic and paradoxical tones, as in the comment about eating ice cream.
- Melancholy, perplexed, and frustrated tones, as in the description of the increasingly strained marriage.
- A tone of uncertainty, as the narrator tries to decide what to do about the tensions in her marriage.
- Personal narration, with a strong emphasis on the present tense in the first and last parts of the chapter.
- A focus at least as much on the marriage as on the narrator’s relations with her mother. Such relations are the focus of many other chapters in the book.
- Emphasis on dialogue to illustrate conflict.