Identify patterns of maternal love and concern among the women in the novel
Cite evidence of oppression?
Distinguish between biological motivation and social motivation for Oppression in the novel
Determine whether motherhood is an asset or liability in the Novel
Understand use of multiple first person narrators
Amy Tan’s novel The Joy Luck Club is a poignant story of four women who have emigrated from China. Each member of the “the joy luck club” tells the story of her life in China. In turn each of the women’s daughters tells her story. Motherhood and the legacies left to each daughter are the themes throughout the book. The Joy Luck Club presents the reader with an interesting perspective on motherhood for several reasons. Tan begins in the present with the American born daughters. Each daughter manifests confusion and resentment toward her mother and her strange notions of life. The mothers in the Joy Luck Club are loving mothers in the only way that they know. Having been raised in China under very different social circumstances with extremely different expectations for and of daughters their intentions are often misconstrued by their daughters. The strategies mothers employed to ensure the emotional survival of daughters differ from China to the United States.
The novel is relayed in a series of vignettes with seven different narrators. The unique structure of the novel allows the reader to sense the alienation both the members of the Joy Luck Club feel and that of their daughters. Each vignette is relayed in the first person with the exception of Suyuan’s story. Her story is told by her daughter both from what she has heard directly from her mother and what she has learned from her father and other members of the Joy Luck Club.
The novel opens with a meeting of the Joy Luck Club. Jing-Mei Woo narrates the first chapter. She is the daughter of Suyuan Woo, the recently deceased founder of the Joy Luck Club. The reader is introduced to the three remaining members of the Joy Luck Club by Jing-Mei. The remaining vignettes of the first part of the novel consist of the members relaying stories of their early lives in China. The vignettes are relayed in the first person to the reader only. The second part of the novel is composed of the vignettes told by the daughters of their early lives. The third part of the novel is the daughters as adults. Each relays a way in which she perceives that she has failed as a woman (as daughter or wife) or has failed to live up to her mother’s expectations for her. The last part of the novel is a series of vignettes told by the members of the Joy Luck Club. They discuss their daughters as related to the lives of their own mothers. The unique narrative is very effective because it allows the reader to understand the motives of both mother and daughter. As readers we can understand the perspectives of all of the narrators. Yet as readers we can clearly understand the inability of the characters to understand one another. What would have prepared the daughters for life as women in China caused a chasm between them when raised Chinese in the United States. Standards of good mothering were different in the United States because expectations of and for women are very different. The members of the Joy Luck Club sought to empower their daughters yet the daughters were unable to recognize this. They could not make sense of the lessons the mothers tried to impart.
“She said the two soups were almost the same, chabudwo.Or maybe she said butong, not the same thing at all. It was one of those Chinese expressions that means the better half of mixed intentions. I can never remember things I didn’t understand in the first place.”
Activities for The Joy Luck Club
Outline Characteristics and Philosophies of women in the novel
Identify patterns in relationships, both familial and generational
Students will keep a journal while reading the novel. They will have one page for each of the members of the “joy luck club”; they will also have a page for each of the mothers of the members and the daughters.
Joy Luck Club Members
Ying-ying St. Clair
The journal will be divided according to family, not generation. Students will provide a brief history for each of the Joy luck Club members.
Students will answer the following questions for each of the members:
What characteristics would you use to describe this member?
What does the character consider a valuable lesson in her life?
What does she want for her daughter?
Is she a good mother?
For each of the daughters the students will answer the following questions:
How would she describe her mother?
What behaviors and attitudes of her mother does she not understand?
Where does she believe that her mother failed her?
For the grandmothers (mothers of the joy luck club members)
What did they impart to their own daughter’s
Upon completing the novel students will have a comprehensive profile of each character. They will be asked to review their notes and note similarities among the women.
They will be asked to write a three page paper based on the novel and journals.
They will answer the following questions in the papers.
Each of the daughters feels there is a great divide between her and her mother. Where is there evidence to suggest this? What are the reasons for the division? Are the members of the Joy luck club good mothers?
Students must cite specific reasons for their opinions. They must also consider the reasons for the divisions among the generations.
Lesson Plan Understanding Narrative
Analyze the author’s use of vignettes to contribute to the overall theme
Evaluate effectiveness of multiple first person narrative
Students will be asked to discuss the author’s use of narrative as it relates to the novel’s themes.
Students must consider what the effect of the novel would be had it not been told in such a manner.