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:
- An emphasis on family, as in the first two paragraphs of the chapter.
- An emphasis on the importance of mothers in Chinese-American families, as in those same two paragraphs.
- Superstitions, as in the first five paragraphs of the chapter.
- The contrast between older and younger generations and between Chinese-American culture and American culture in general.
- Fairness, especially in relations between married couples.
- Underlying tensions in relationships, especially between married couples.
- Professional life, personal life, and the intersections between the two.
- Finances and ideas about financial “fairness.”
- Humor, especially as the result of contrasts between conflicting values, as when Harold explains to Lena’s mother why the house he and Lena own was so expensive:
“Well, you see, it’s the details that cost so much. Like 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.”
- Irony, as in the quotation just cited.
- An emphasis on childish thoughts and feelings, as when the narrator describes her attitudes toward a character named Arnold.
- Ironic juxtaposition, as in the quotation cited above, and also in this statement:
Harold and I work at the same architectural firm, Livotny & Associates. Only Harold Livotny is a partner and I am an associate.
- Emphasis on Chinese-American dialect, as in the mother’s frequent use of the exclamation “Aii” and as in her slightly non-standard use of English, as when she says, “I once know pock-mark man. Mean man, bad man.”
- Personal reminiscence, as when the narrator recounts details from her youth. The word “I” is used frequently in this chapter.
- Erotic, as in Lena’s descriptions of her and Harold’s love-making (although sometimes those descriptions are tinged with irony).
- Emphasis on dialogue, especially when Lena is describing her relationship with Harold. This emphasis is important to the theme of fairness, since it presents the attitudes, ideas, and feelings of both of them.
- Self-questioning, as when Lena repeatedly poses questions to herself.