Essay on Search for Identity in Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club

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Search for Identity in Joy Luck Club

Each person reaches a point in their life when they begin to search for their own, unique identity. In her novel, Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan follows Jing Mei on her search for her Chinese identity – an identity long neglected.

Four Chinese mothers have migrated to America. Each hope for their daughter’s success and pray that they will not experience the hardships faced in China. One mother, Suyuan, imparts her knowledge on her daughter through stories. The American culture influences her daughter, Jing Mei, to such a degree that it is hard for Jing Mei to understand her mother's culture and life lessons. Yet it is not until Jing Mei realizes that the key to understanding who her
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Suyuan rejects the women-repressive Chinese traditions when she tells her daughter that she "believed you could be anything you want to be in America" (Tan 141). Suyuan continually tells Jing Mei her "Kweilin story" as a child, the story of the origins of the Joy Luck Club as well as her mother's past hardships. Yet despite the importance of the story and the events constituting the story to Suyuan, Jing Mei "never thought [her] mother's Kweilin story was anything but a Chinese fairy tale" (Tan 12). The story would have the same meaning to Jing Mei as if she were being told the story of Sleeping Beauty, or some other American bedtime story.

When Jing Mei recognizes the similarities between her mother and herself she begins to understand not only her mother but herself as well. There are subtle connections and likenesses from the beginning between Jing Mei and her mother that Jing Mei does not see. The book commences with Jing Mei taking her mother's place at the mah jong table, creating a similarity between them from the beginning. Suyuan dies two months before the start of the book, and therefore is not able to tell the stories. Jing Mei has learned and must tell her stories in her place, forming another parallelism between mother and daughter. Because Suyuan is dead, Jing Mei must act in place of her mother when she goes to meet her Chinese sisters in China. Throughout the book Jing Mei takes the place of Suyuan, showing she and her mother
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