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The Joy Luck Club

by Amy Tan

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Explain the simile: "It was like a stiff embraceless dance between her and the TV set."

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A simile is a literary device that compares two concepts using 'like' or 'as.' In this case, the simile is describing her interaction to the TV as a dance, which suggests a relationship. It also says that the dance is embraceless and stiff. A dance without embrace is usually cold and loveless, so the relationship with the TV is likely one that is not enjoyable. It also is stiff, which shows the desire to be away from the dance or perhaps even free from the dance.

I would recommend looking at the context of the simile to discover why she experiences the TV in such a negative way. The setting and past events are incredibly useful for a question like this.

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A simile makes a comparison between two things using the words "like" or "as." The purpose of a simile is to help the reader better understand an idea by making a comparison to something she already understands well. 

In this simile, the person's relationship to the television is compared to a dance. Because the dance is "stiff" and "embraceless" we get the impression that it is awkward and strange. I'm reminded of middle school dances where everyone is afraid to dance or to touch his or her partner. Thus, the relationship with the television is tense, perhaps unwelcome. She does not love the television, but she still feels compelled to watch it. 

In Amy Tan's novel, The Joy Luck Club, focuses on the many ways that the Chinese immigrant mothers often feel trapped by or uncomfortable with American culture. Since the television is a common symbol of American culture, we might take this simile further to suggest that it represents the woman's discomfort with the unfamiliar expectations of American society. 

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