Bridging generational divides

Mia Clark

"The Twenty-Six Malignant Gates"

"The Twenty-Six Malignant Gates" parable is my favorite, because it demonstrates one of the many important concepts displayed multiple times throughout the novel, the stress placed on a mother and daughter's relationship because of their desires to each want something different. In the parable, the mother tells her daughter that she doesn't want her riding her bike around the corner, in fear that her daughter will fall and she won't be able to help her. In protest, her daughter argues that her mother is wrong, creating tension between them. The daughter ran to her bike, and "in a hurry to get away, she fell before she even reached the corner" (Tan 87). Throughout the novel, it is demonstrated with each family that mother-daughter relationships can falter when they disagree with each other. I like this parable, because I feel that it does a good job of connecting all the families in showing similarity in each family's struggle to maintain a good relationship.
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Another mother and daughter pair

If I was to read another mother and daughter pair in the novel, I would choose the Jong family pair. The story of this mother-daughter relationship begins with a flashback of Lindo Jong, the mother, and her arranged, loveless marriage she was forced into as a child. Although she manages to free herself from this, many years later when she has a kid of her own, they struggle to maintain a good relationship because of the cultural differences they face, making communication and understanding between the two of them difficult. I would choose this pair, because it is important for everyone to be able to have a say in what they want in life, including marriage, a say of which Lindo Jong was not given. I believe that Lindo should have been given the opportunity to decide her own future, and would like to read about Lindo's journey in fighting for her rights and self-worth. I would also like to read this, because of the distance between Lindo and her daughter. Mother-daughter relationships are a very important factor in life, and it's interesting to see how different cultures and beliefs between the two effect their understanding of each other.

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Quotation from the novel

"I looked at my reflection, blinking so I could see more clearly. The girl staring back at me was angry, powerful. This girl and I were the same. I had new thoughts, willful thoughts, or rather thoughts filled with lots of wont's. I won't let her change me, I promised myself. I won't be what I'm not" (Tan 134).

This quote stood out to me, because this is when Jing-mei finally came to realize that although she may not become the all-perfect, talented prodigy her mother desires her be, she is okay with who she is and refuses to let her mother change her "ordinariness." She believes that being ordinary is her true identity, and feels that this is what makes her, her. From then on, she refuses to let her mother push her to be something she's not, because she now sees that she has the free will to do what she wants to do, and be who she wants to be. I was moved by this quote, because it is hard for people to have this kind of self-confidence. Many people feel like they aren't good enough, and compare themselves to others, desperately wishing they could be anyone else. Amy Tan uses Jing-mei to show readers that it's important to be confident in yourself, and that your opinion of yourself is much more valuable than someone else's of you.

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Thematic Statement

In The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan presents the idea that identity allows individualism and a since of belonging, but can be impacted by cultural influences. In the novel, Jing-Mei Woo struggles with endless battles against her mother, demonstrating the hardships in maintaining one's identity. Her mother insisted that she become a prodigy, making her do countless tricks and acts in hopes that she could fulfill the American Dream her mother put so much faith in, and become something she couldn't have with a life in China. Jing-Mei fought back, expressing her desperation to stay true to herself, saying she "wont let her [mother] change [her]... [she] won't be what [she's] not" (Tan 134). Growing up, her mother saw first-handedly how difficult it can be to find yourself and your individualism outside of America, where there isn't freedom to become whoever you want to be. In a desperate attempt to give her daughter this individualism, she failed to recognize she was losing her own. By moving and assimilating into American culture, Jing-Mei's mother slowly began to lose bits of her Chinese culture, where she had always believed was where she truly belonged.