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The Joy Luck Club

by Amy Tan

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What was Amy Tan's whole purpose of writing The Joy Luck Club?

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As another reviewer said, it can be tricky to identify an author's "purpose" or why the author wrote a particular work. It is usually better to discuss the themes or what ideas arise from the work. The author constructs the work in a way to highlight or emphasize particular themes.

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As another reviewer said, it can be tricky to identify an author's "purpose" or why the author wrote a particular work. It is usually better to discuss the themes or what ideas arise from the work. The author constructs the work in a way to highlight or emphasize particular themes.

Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club emphasizes the relationships between mothers and daughters, communication between those mothers and daughters, and cultural differences between those who grow up in one country and then raise their children in a different country. There are four mothers and four daughters in the novel; each character is highlighted in two short stories. The only character whose story is not emphasized directly through her own stories is Suyuan, who, we learn, has recently died. Her daughter Jing-Mei is instead the focus of the stories that would be hers, which is symbolic of the way Jing-Mei is taking her mother's place (at the mahjong table, in the Joy Luck Club, on the trip to China). That connection between Suyuan and Jing-Mei, then, is reiterated through the structure of the novel.

The novel seems to suggest that despite what may seem like differences (because of their different cultural and generational upbringings) between mothers and daughters do not actually keep them apart. They are more connected than they realize. This is implied by the final story, "A Pair of Tickets," when Jing-Mei goes to China to meet her mother's twin daughters, who she had to leave in China during a war. Jing-Mei feels deeply connected to Suyuan through being in China and being with her other daughters.

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It's always notoriously difficult to determine an author's precise purpose in writing a book. In the case of Amy Tan and The Joy Luck Club, we can perhaps surmise that the author set out to explore the complex relationship between the twin aspects of her racial and cultural heritage. As a second-generation Chinese-American Tan understands the importance of maintaining a connection with one's ancestry while still remaining thoroughly assimilated into modern-day American society.

In the various stories that make up The Joy Luck Club Tan explores inter-generational tensions between parents who came to the United States as immigrants and their children, who were born on American soil. These tensions aren't always resolved; indeed, they frequently generate additional problems and challenges. But in writing about them with such skill and admirable candor Tan highlights an important theme that is all too often unexplored and misunderstood.

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Whenever we consider the "purpose" of a text, we often have to infer the reasons that the author had for writing it. However, when we think about the life of Amy Tan and how her life experience is reflected in this excellent novel, perhaps we can understand her reasons. Amy Tan herself, like the four younger characters in this novel, was a person who had to struggle with two cultures: the culture of her parents who had left China during the Communist revolution and the culture of the country where she was born, America. Amy Tan herself said that she "grew up with several Englishes," and just like the characters in The Joy Luck Club, she had to struggle with the various cultures in which she lived, especially concerning expectations of her Chinese parents and the freedom and opportunities given to her in America. Thus we can deduce that this novel was written to share and communicate something of the experience of Chinese immigrants and their children and the struggles that they face.

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