In Amy Tan’s novel The Joy Luck Club, the chapter titled “The Voice from the Wall” 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.
- The complicated relations between peoples of different cultures and generations.
- Superstition and mystery.
- Interracial marriage.
- Multicultural living conditions, as in the diverse names of the people who inhabit one apartment building.
- Humor, as in the opening two sentences of the chapter:
When I was little, my mother told me my great-grandfather had sentenced a beggar to die in the worst possible way, and that later the dead man came back and killed my great-grandfather. Either that, or he died of influenza one week later.
- Foreboding, as at the end of the first major division of the chapter.
- Paranoia, as in the sentence “My mother saw danger in everything.”
- Comedy, as when the mother opens jars in stores to smell their contents, or in the girl’s claim that paper bags carried polio germs.
- Contrasts between families from different ethnic backgrounds.
- Tragedy, as in the birth of the stillborn baby.
- Ironic juxtapositions, as in the quotation above as well as in this sentence:
“‘Why are you doing this?’ I asked her, afraid she would give me a true answer.”
- Suspense and foreshadowing, as in the final paragraph of the chapter’s first section.
- Colloquial dialogue, which is often used to indicate differences in the cultural backgrounds of the speakers, as when the father speaks differently than the mother.
- Detailed descriptions of past environments, as in the description of conditions inside and outside the apartment building.
- Long passages of reported speech, as in the scene at the hospital.
- Vivid imagery, as in the following sentence:
After the baby died, my mother fell apart, not all at once, but piece by piece, like plates falling off a shelf one by one.