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The Joy Luck Club

by Amy Tan

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What is the significance of the title The Joy Luck Club?

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The significance of the title The Joy Luck Club is based on the fact that all the characters to whom we are introduced could use some joy and luck in their lives. In addition, Suyuan was previously a member of a Joy Luck Club which brought much peace to her life, even in a time of war.

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The name of The Joy Luck Club is significant in that it shows how the various women depicted in the story are still able to have a positive outlook on life despite their many trials and tribulations. The Joy Luck Club is more than just a social organization in which women can come together and form enduring bonds of friendship with one another. It is a living embodiment of a certain attitude towards life, one that is steeped in hope and positivity. The name of the Club tells us a lot about the women who join it.

The women of the Joy Luck Club count their blessings; hence their belief that they are lucky. They also see the joy in their lives, even in the midst of upheaval. And yet they have all encountered much suffering in their lives, so much so that one can perhaps regard the name of their social group as being somewhat ironic.

Even so, joy and luck are things that one hopes for, especially in the midst of so much sorrow and pain. As Suyuan Woo always intended it would, the Club provides a distraction from the world and all its problems, a haven of peace in a world in which war, suffering, and strife are ever-present.

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I would argue that there are two reasons for the significance of the title The Joy Luck Club.

Firstly, it pays respect to the original Joy Luck Club, which was started by Suyuan Woo during the Second Sino-Japanese War. The first time around, it was a means for the main characters to keep their chins up amid unimaginable hardship. When Suyuan becomes part of another group with a similar spirit, this time in San Francisco with three other Chinese immigrants, it seems fitting to use the same name.

Secondly, the club brings joy and luck into the troubled lives of its four members, all of whom have endured much hardship. For starters, Suyuan lost her family and her twin daughters in a war, and settled in San Francisco without every knowing what happened to the twins. It is therefore evident that she is in great need of joy and luck, since her twins' fate only becomes known after her death.

The second member of the club, An-mei, has also gone through much, with her mother having committed suicide and her daughter having gotten divorced. The sense of community and friendship offered by the gatherings of these four women is one of the few sources of joy in her life.

Lindo has had ongoing conflicts with her daughter, Waverly, who is a chess prodigy, and is also in need of the joy offered by companionship with her friends.

Ying-ying's first husband abandoned her while she was pregnant, and her second marriage is loveless. Her second child was stillborn, which was naturally a source of great sadness. Her daughter, Lena, is in an abusive marriage, and since Ying-ying feels powerless to help, the moments she can share with her friends in the Joy Luck Club make all the difference.

In a nutshell, the significance of the title The Joy Luck Club is the historical significance that is has for Suyuan and the great need that all four main characters have for some joy and luck in their lives.

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The name of the book, and the women's group that meets to play the Chinese game mahjong, is sadly and somewhat hopefully ironic. Suyuan Woo, a woman who had lived through incredible hardship, enduring the loss of her twin daughters in China, started the club. It is as though she hoped for greater joy and better luck in America than she'd had in China, and so she named the club for those things she wanted rather than the things she had. Likewise, Lindo Jong had an extremely difficult childhood as a result of her betrothal and eventual marriage to a selfish and cruel boy. An-Mei Hsu also experienced personal hardship in China as a result of her estrangement from her mother, and Ying-ying St. Clair's decline from an independent and strong woman into a passive and insecure one characterizes her personal struggle.

All the women have sad pasts, and some have sad presents too, so the irony of the name "the Joy Luck Club" seems to show the great differences between their dreams for themselves and their daughters, and their realities. At the same time, the women's hopefulness, and their dreams for a better life in America, helps us to understand their optimism, despite their hardships.

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An explanation of the title "The Joy Luck Club" is provided the reader in the course of the narrative.  The Joy Luck Club was formed by one of the four Chinese-immigrant women in China before their coming to America.  Suyuan Woo started this club to distract her friends from their oppression in China. That is, she hoped the club could keep them--at least for a while--from thinking about their woes during the Japanese invasion of China.  Then, after the women migrated to the United States, the club was continued as a means of unifying the four women and their daughters.  Suyuan Woo hoped that this continuation of the club would bring good luck to her friends and happiness in their reunions.  And, by retaining this vestige of their culture in China, Suyuan and the other mothers hope to keep alive the Chinese heritage of their American-born daughters.

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Why is the novel called The Joy Luck Club?

The title of Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club reflects the hopes and dreams of the novel's characters as expressed in the social club started by Suyuan.

Suyuan started the first Joy Luck Club in China during the war to help herself and her friends focus on hope even in the midst of tragedy. Suyuan and her friends desired joy and luck (or blessings), and they knew that the only way to really attain either was to reach out and embrace them with high spirits and a positive attitude. Therefore, they participated in the Joy Luck Club as an expression of their longings and as a way to attain them.

When Suyuan moved to San Francisco, she started a second Joy Luck Club with three friends. These women gather each week to play mah-jongg, share food, and discuss their lives. Again, these women have faced and still face many hardships in life, and they still desire joy and luck. Therefore, they reach out for them, coming together in friendship to raise their spirits, comfort each other, discover joy, and recognize their blessings.

The novel's title, therefore, focuses on this central element in these women's lives, namely, their club. This club allows them to express their desires, but it also allows them to attain their desires together in community and love.

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