Grasping On

By Rachel Wasserman

Favorite Parable

My favorite parable was the one that was the precursor to "Feathers From A Thousand Li Away". This parable talked about a women who was coming to live in America from Shanghai. With her, she brought her beautiful swan whom she told, "'I will have a daughter just like me. But over there nobody will say her worth is measured by the loudness of her husband's belch...She will know my meaning, because I will give her this swan..." (Tan 17). Once she arrived in America, her swan was confiscated from her. The parable goes on to say that her daughter was completely American with no sense of her Chinese culture. The swan symbolized the mother's Chinese identity that she could no longer pass onto her daughter. This parabole was my favorite because I felt sympathy for the mother and how she unwillingly lost the very thing that shaped who she was as a person.

Alternate Mother-Daughter Duo

If I were to have to read another mother and daughter story in The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, I would read the sections about Lindo and Waverly Jong. While discussing the different parts of the book in class, the Jong section really intrigued me. The way that Lindo has to plot a way to get out of her toxic marriage shows her intelligence and cleverness. She fears that if she gives her daughter, Waverly, American opportunities, then she will lose her true Chinese identity. Waverly is very wary of her mother's opinions and strives to please her while also trying to be her own independent person.

"And I knew that was not true. I knew my mother made up anything to warn me, to help me avoid some unknown danger. My mother saw danger in everything..." (Tan 105).

I am moved by this quote because it is very relatable but also very unique to this book as a whole. In this book, the mothers are all trying to shield their daughters from the influences of American society. The struggle to get their daughters to remember their Chinese identity and how they attempt to downplay the effects of America is shown in the quote above. This is also relatable to reality because all parents, moms especially with their daughters, try to block the negative things from their children as long as they can.

Thematic Paragraph

In The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan presents the idea that trying to forcibly change one’s culture is accompanied by many hardships within the family. While Ying-ying St.Clair works in a store in Shanghai, she meets her future husband, Clifford St. Clair. Clifford brings Ying-ying with him back to America with the intention of marrying her. She is immediately faced with adversity as she is forced to assimilate to the new, American culture. As a result of the language barrier between Clifford and Ying-ying, they experience difficulties communicating, which ultimately hinders the growth of their relationship. In an attempt to make their relationship succeed, Clifford St. Clair “insisted [Ying-ying] learn English”, so, she “spoke in moods and gestures, looks and silences, and sometimes a combination of English punctuated by hesitations and Chinese frustration” (Tan 106). As Ying-ying and Clifford St. Clair’s relationship develops, it becomes evident that the difference in language and culture proves to be negatively impacting. Clifford’s attempt to force Ying-ying into assimilating to his ways ultimately leads to not only the decline in their relationship, but also Ying-ying losing her true identity.