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In Amy Tan’s novel The Joy Luck Club, the chapter titled “Without Wood” is narrated by Rose Hsu Jordan. Some of the themes, tones, and narrative styles of the chapter might be described as follows:
- Relations between mothers and daughters, especially in Chinese culture.
- The ways parents share superstitions with children in memorable ways.
- The power of words.
- The influence of Christianity in Chinese-American culture.
- Relations among friends, especially among female friends.
- Relations, especially tensions, between husbands and wives.
- Relations between Chinese and American lifestyles.
- Humor in the use of nick-names.
- Humor deriving from mispronunciation and malapropisms.
- Sadness in the focus on a decaying marriage.
- Suspense, as we wonder why Rose wants Ted to visit their house one last time.
- Self-assertion and self-respect, as Rose eventually frees herself from Ted’s influence.
- Irony, as Rose turns the tables on Ted.
- An emphasis on personal recollection, especially recollection of childhood. Note the frequent use of the word “I.”
- Humorous and ironic juxtapositions, as in the description of the mother’s comments during the funeral service.
- Use of colloquial American slang, as in the minister’s comments about China Mary’s reception in heaven.
- Use of comic euphemisms, as in the mother’s description of sex as “doing monkey business.”
- Use of proverbial language, as when the mother tells Rose,
“A girl is like a young tree . . . . You must stand tall and listen to your mother standing next to you. That is the only way to grow strong and straight. But if you bend to listen to other people, you will grow crooked and weak. You will fall to the ground with the first strong wind.”
- Allusions to contemporary culture, as in the reference to “Snail B-Gone.”
- Echoes of language and ideas used earlier, as in the later comic reference to “monkey business.”
- Reversal of expectations, as at the very end of the chapter.
- Symmetry, as, for instance, when the chapter both opens and closes by emphasizing “the power of words.”
- Symbolic figures, such as the recurring symbolic figure Mr. Chou, who symbolizes dreams.
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