Illustration of the profiles of a young woman and an older woman facting away from each other

The Joy Luck Club

by Amy Tan

Start Free Trial

What are Jing-mei's feelings towards herself in The Joy Luck Club?

Quick answer:

Jing-mei feels torn between the obedience and conformity expected in Chinese culture and her desire to live as her own person, an American ideal. It takes her time to come to grips with her identity and to reconcile the two cultures she is part of.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Jing-mei, a lynchpin in the novel, is representative in many ways of all the daughters. She feels caught between the exacting demands and criticisms of her Chinese mother, Suyuan, and the desire to be her own person that is central to American culture.

Suyuan expects obedience and conformity, as well as high achievement from her daughter, which often leads Jing-mei to feel stifled. Jing-mei grows up without a strong sense of self and is not fully in touch with what she wants. At first, she mostly knows what she doesn't want. She doesn't want to be suffocated by Chinese culture and takes on the Americanized name June. She struggles to break free of her mother:

I won't let her change me, I promised myself. I won't be what I'm not.

Jing-mei also feels that she is a powerful person, but she doesn't know what to do with that power. She finally begins to find herself when she feels she can take up playing the piano again. It had been shoved down her throat when she was a child because her mother wanted her to be a prodigy, but now, she plays because she wants to. This freedom helps her reconcile her American self to her Chinese self.

Jing-mei also feels the fear all the younger women do that in pursuing an American identity, they are losing their Chinese heritage. Jing-mei is able to reconcile many of these conflicts when she visits China and meets her long-lost half sisters.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial