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

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vangoghfan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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


  • Traditional Chinese lore, superstitions, wisdom, and customs.
  • Relations, including tensions and conflict, within a traditional Chinese extended family.
  • Lack of contact with one’s parents.
  • Family reputation and conflicts within families.
  • Relations between mothers and daughters.
  • Death and the prospect of death.
  • The means used by older people to teach and control younger people, especially children.



  • Paradox, as in the second paragraph’s description of the grandmother’s story about the narrator’s birth, or the description (near the end of the chapter) of how the grandmother made the narrator want to continue to live after she had been badly burned.
  • Touches of humor to help emphasize, by contrast the generally serious tone of the chapter.



  • Personal reminiscence.
  • Vivid language, as when the narrator says of her grandmother,

Popo had swollen up like an overripe squash, so full her flesh had gone soft and rotten with a bad smell.

Here, as so often elsewhere in the chapter, the narrator uses especially vivid and memorable similes.

  • Frequent use of short sentences and of fragments, as when the narrator says,

Here is how I came to love my mother. How I saw in her my own true nature. What was beneath my skin. Inside my bones.

  • Emphasis on dialogue, often to express tense relations.


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The Joy Luck Club

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