The most imperative technique Tan uses is flashbacks. Tan uses flashbacks to illustrate the upbringing of her characters. For example, Lindo Jong presents her past story in the chapter, The Red Candle. The chapter depicts her upbringing in a Chinese cultured society in which she is engaged to Tyan Yu at the age of two. Jong is soon abandoned by her family due to a flood, which leaves her in the hands of Yu’s family. Struggling through her existance, she finally creates a plan to escape her unfair life. She tricks her household into believing she will bring chaos to the family, therefore her in-laws provide her with money, which she uses to travel to America (Tan 49-66). Jong’s reference to the past shows the reader that Jong did not have an ordinary life but grew up struggling for freedom.
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Waverly Jong, Lindo Jong’s daughter, refers to her past as an ordinary American. Waverly briefly describes her life and how she bonds with the game of chess. She then describes her problems with her mother. Waverly accuses her mother of using her as a token to show off since she was a Chess prodigy (Tan 89-101). Lindo pushed Waverly out of love and expected respect and admiration in return. But, Waverly thought of her mother as a furtive woman with selfish needs. This shows how simplistic and ignorant Waverly really is. Lindo on the other hand was abandoned by her parents and had to struggle to reach the freedom which Waverly had achieved at birth. The flashbacks really show the difference between a harsh Chinese upbringing compared to the casual life of an American-raised Chinese woman. We have the privilege of discovering their perspective by point of view.
Point of view, another key technique utilized throughout the novel, is deviously presented by Tan to show the reader each character’s perspective. In The Joy Luck Club Tan presents her novel in seven different first-person point of views; An-Mei Hsu’s, Lindo Jong’s, Ying-Ying St.clair ,June Woo’s, Rose Hsu Jordan, Waverly Jong, and Lena st. Clair. “This is how a daughter honors her mother. It is shou so deep it is in your bones. The pain of the flesh is nothing. The pain you must forget. Because sometimes that is the only way to remember what is in your bones. You must peel off your skin, and that of your mother, and her mother before her. Until there is nothing. No scar, no skin, no flesh (Tan Pg. 41).” This quote is presented in An-Mei’s point of view after she experiences her mother cutting meat of her body to cure her grandmother. The quote deeply display’s An-Mei’s view of the connection between mothers and their daughters. An -Mei extends so far in her view that she describes respect, or shou, as being in the bones as a part of a Chinese daughter. She feels very strong toward the connection and tells Rose, her daughter, to talk to her instead of going to the psychiatrist because she knows Rose best and is in her bones. On top of that An-Mei faced atrocious experiences like the other mothers in the book. These women would go so far for their own mothers, in contrast to their own daughters.
On the contrary, the daughters in the novel are lack experience and culture. As typical American citizens, they tend to face much simpler problems.”I watch her, sweep after sweep, waiting for the right moment to tell her about ted and me, that we’re getting divorced” (Tan pg.116). This quote presented in Rose Hsu Jordan’s view represents a major problem in her life. Rose is about to get a divorce, a typical problem faced in American society. An-Mei’s view on a mother-daughter relationship is emotional, but Rose still hesitates to share her problems with her. Rose looks down on her mother because her mother keeps pushing her to fix the marriage. An-Mei pushes her because she knows the value of a relationship, but Rose still oversees her mother’s intentions. An-Mei had to face such atrocious problems where as one of Rose’s major problem was divorce and yet she seems to not tend to it as much. Analyzing each of their views helps to show the distinction between these two relationships. The mother’s life, a Chinese cultural and wise life, was very different in a more difficult sense, where as the modern American citizen life was oblivious.
A symbol that represents the mothers in the novel is the swan. “This bird, boasted the market vendor, was once a duck that stretched its neck in hopes of becoming a goose, and now look!-it is too beautiful to eat” (Tan 17). The swan is a beautiful creature that represents hope. The old woman is traveling to America for a new life and with hope in her heart. The mothers in the novel are described the same way. They all have nothing but hope left and push for a new life.
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A symbol that represents the daughters is the list on Lena St. Clair’s refrigerator. The list divides up the items Lena buys and those that Harold, her husband, buys. Tan uses the list to criticize the American society. A married couple should not account for the items they purchase. Marriage is a bond that is based of love, whereas their marriage sort of seems as a business partnership. Tan show her opinion on this by Ying-Ying’s disagreement. “This, you do not share!” stated Ying-Ying. Ying-Ying. Ying-Ying knows that such an imperative bond should not reflect the items shared in a household. The swan represents the mothers in such an elegant manner. However, the list presents the daughters in such an insensible manner.
If Tan was to be described she would be described as the daughters in the book. Like the daughters she was raised in America. Tan’s mother had left behind three children in Shanghai, which relates to Jing-Mei’s view. This novel doesn’t represent seven fictional characters but it represents a cultural society today. Parts of the book were from Tan’s life. Tan uniquely expresses her personal thoughts through this novel which opened the reader’s eyes to a whole new world of culture awareness.
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