The Joy Luck Club Suggested Essay Topics
by Amy Tan

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Suggested Essay Topics

Feathers from a Thousand Li Away

1. In what ways might this mother represent all immigrants to America?

2. In what ways might this mother represent all parents?

The Joy Luck Club
1. Compare and contrast Suyuan’s expectation of Kweilin with the reality of her life there.

2. Based on the details in this story, describe Suyuan.

3. Based on the details in this story, describe Jing-mei.

1. What evidence in the story suggests that Popo was a good mother, not only to An-mei and her brother, but also to her daughter, An-mei’s mother?

2. What factors might have caused An-mei’s mother to leave at the time An-mei needed her most?

3. In what ways are An-mei, her mother, and Popo “scarred”?

The Red Candle
1. Is Lindo’s behavior in this story consistent with the description given of her in the first story, “The Joy Luck Club”? Explain your answer.

2. Compare and contrast the description of the Huang house with the people who live in it.

The Moon Lady
1. At the beginning of this story, Ying-ying describes herself as “lost.” In what ways is that statement foreshadowed in “The Joy Luck Club”?

2. Explain the symbolism of Ying-ying’s shadow.

3. Describe the expectations of women in China as they are revealed in this story. Consider expectations of Ying-ying, her mother, and Amah. Compare and contrast them with the expectations for Lindo in “The Red Candle.”

The Twenty-Six Malignant Gates

1. Discuss this vignette as a clash of cultures, typical of immigrant families.

2. Discuss this vignette as a clash of generations, typical of all families.

Rules of the Game
1. What does Waverly learn about playing chess? (Consider breaking this question into three parts: individual moves, etiquette, and overall strategy.)

2. In what ways does the story compare the relationship between Waverly and Lindo to a chess game?

3. The adult Waverly, looking back, says of her mother, “I think she thought of herself as my protective ally.” Is this an accurate assessment of Lindo’s attitude toward Waverly’s talent and success? Explain.

The Voice from the Wall
1. Lena refers to her “Chinese eyes.” Explain what she means on a literal and figurative level.

2. In what ways do problems in communication affect the St. Clair family?

Half and Half
1. Explain how the motif of yin and yang figures in this story.

2. This story touches on the issue of racial discrimination. In what ways is the author’s depiction of both An-mei’s and Mrs. Jordan’s attitude accurate?

Two Kinds
1. In what ways does Jing-mei misunderstand Suyuan’s hopes in this story?

2. In what ways do “Pleading Child” and “Perfectly Contented” describe Jing-mei?

American Translation

1. In what ways is the mother in this vignette living in the contemporary world, and in what ways is she living in the past?

2. In what ways do parents often try to transmit their values to their children?

Rice Husband
1. Harold says, “As long as we keep the money thing separate, we’ll always be sure of our love for each other.” What evidence suggests that he is taking advantage of Lena by doing this?

2. What evidence suggests that Lena lacks self-esteem?

3. In what ways does Lena’s submission to Harold’s financial control parallel Ying-ying’s submission to St. Clair’s language control in “The Voice from the Wall”?

Four Directions
1. What references to chess maneuvers delineate the relationship between Waverly and Lindo in this story?

2. Compare and contrast Waverly’s version of her argument with Lindo with Lindo’s version in “Rules of the Game.”

Without Wood
1. In what ways does this story use the motif of weeds?

2. In what ways does this story validate the theme of “listen to your mother”?

Best Quality
1. After Waverly insults Jing-mei several times, Suyuan says to Waverly, “True, cannot teach style. June not sophisticate like you. Must be born this way.” Explain this apparent betrayal in light of Suyuan’s later contempt for Waverly.

2. Suyuan says she knew that...

(The entire section is 1,065 words.)