American Translation, Vignette Summary and Analysis

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 370

The mother insists her adult daughter move the mirrored armoire at the foot of her bed. She says her daughter’s “marriage happiness” will reflect off the mirror and turn to unhappiness. The daughter, annoyed, says there is no other place in the bedroom of the new condominium to put it. It will have to stay where it is.

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The mother pulls a mirror, her housewarming present, out of a used Macy’s shopping bag. She tells her daughter to mount this mirror above the head of the bed, across from the other mirror, so the reflections will “multiply your peach-blossom luck.”

When the daughter asks what peach-blossom luck is, the mother only smiles mischievously, tells her to look in the mirror, and asks, “Am I not right? In this mirror is my future grandchild, already sitting on my lap next spring.” The daughter looks and—yes, there it is!—her reflection.

The mother in this vignette invokes the Chinese tradition of feng shui, which holds that locations can be lucky or unlucky. Feng shui influences Chinese and Chinese American architectural styles, building locations, and even furniture arrangement. Telling her daughter to move the mirror is one more way this mother tries to ensure her daughter’s happiness.

The daughter does not understand the theories of feng shui or her mother’s purpose in predicting trouble, nor does she care. She knows what she wants; the armoire will stay where it is. The mother compromises with the second mirror and defines “peach-blossom luck,” children, as a desirable trait in a marriage.

Both “The Joy Luck Club” and “Two Kinds” point to a hope connecting generations. One of the characteristics of contemporary American society has been couples who delay starting a family or who decide not to have children at all. The daughter in this vignette has no children yet, and her mother encourages her to start a family. Otherwise, there may be no generation to pass hope on to.

This vignette introduces four stories told by the daughters, now adults in their thirties. Like the daughter who looks into the mirror, the daughters in these stories see and do not see what their mothers try to show them.

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