Four Paths Intertwined

Karen Chen

"The Twenty-Six Malignant Gates"

Amy Tan's parable "The Twenty-Six Malignant Gates" lucidly portrays the importance of following the wisdom of elders even when one believes they know better. This parable is my favorite because in the little girl, I see myself. As a child, I shared the viewpoint that my parents did not understand me and therefore could not tell me what to do. Yet, time and time again, "in a hurry to get away" from my parent's warnings, I "fell before [I] reached the corner", causing me to eventually learning the truth behind my parent's words (Tan 87). I deeply connect with this parable and therefore, out of all the parables, have gained the most insight from it.
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The little girl in the parable falls on her bike when she does not listen to her mother.

Waverly Jong and Lindo Jong

In Jing-Mei's story, Waverly serves as an antagonist who, for all of Jing-Mei's life, has degraded her. Additionally, Lindo is often portrayed as only bragging about her daughter's accomplishments. Yet, there is much more substance to them than what is exemplified in Jing-Mei's viewpoint. Therefore, I would read Waverly and her mother's story in order to see their lives and struggles in an unbiased light. From what I have seen through discussion, Waverly and Jing-Mei are actually quite similar in that they both seek independence from their mothers. This intrigues me and makes me want to discover the true Waverly, not just the chess prodigy who scolds Jing-Mei on New Year's.
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Waverly has more substance to her than what Jing-Mei has showed in her story.

New Beginnings

In opening chapter of The Joy Luck Club, after Jing-Mei discovers that she will be meeting her lost sisters she says, "I am sitting at my mother's place at the mah jong table, on the East, where things begin" (Tan 41). This quote is beautifully crafted in that it portrays a sense of unity by tying Jing-Mei's task of uniting with her long lost sisters to her mother's long held wish. It is a heartwarming line because it illustrates that when Jing-Mei meets her sisters, she will finally feel as if she has lived up to her mother's standards. I admire this quote because I empathize with Jing-Mei's desire to live up to her mom's hopes and am moved by her ability to finally accomplish her mother's goal.
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Jing-Mei describes her place at the table as the East, "where things begin, my mother once told me, the direction from which the sun rises, where the wind comes from" (Tan 33).

Swimming Away

In the Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan presents the cruciality of developing one's personal identity as a hallmark on the path to adulthood, despite authoritative pressure to remain dependent. Jing-Mei Woo, daughter of Suyuan Woo, struggles in her adolescence to reach the goals her mother presents to her. Tan provides a glimpse into this struggle when, as a child, Jing-Mei is forced to take up piano by her mother. Despite her discontent and disdain towards piano, Jing-Mei keeps taking lessons because ever since she was born she has sought to be "a prodigy", hoping that one day "My mother and father would adore me. I would be beyond reproach. I would never feel the need to sulk for anything" (Tan 133). Yet, Jing-Mei eventually learns that her choice in life should reflect her well being and that she should not have to be an "obedient daughter" if it comes at the cost of her happiness (Tan 142). Later on in adulthood, she reflects this independence when she "has half a degree in biology, then half a degree in art, and then finishing neither" (Tan 31). This illustrates that, despite her mother's urgings to return to college, Jing-Mei refuses to do so because she no longer makes her decisions based on her mother's desires and instead follows her own mind. Additionally, Waverly Jong exemplifies this theme when she replies, "I'm my own person" when her mother requests her to finish her coffee. In response, her mother thinks "How can she be her own person? When did I give her up?" (Tan 254). Suyuan and Lindo both do not wish to lose control over their daughters, yet eventually both daughters detatch from the authority of their mothers as they develop their own mindsets and embark on their own lives.

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Both Waverly and Jing-Mei "swim away " from their mother's holds as they reach adulthood.