Oscar Wilde once said, “what seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise”. By getting through bitter trials, one is awarded with blessings that come in different forms and shapes. These trials can range from a wide variety of tasks such as learning to change one’s views or perspectives by becoming more accepting. With this change of perspective, one is awarded with the blessing of acceptance which ultimately leads an individual to accept his/her surroundings: the beauty in one’s culture, family, and themselves.
This is explored by Amy Tan in The Joy Luck Club where she argues that culture provides beauty and brings people closer, family is the key to self-discovery; members must be accepted from a realistic viewpoint and one’s own responsibilities towards them must be understood, and by accepting one’s roots and heritage, he/she discovers the power stored within and the impact placed on others, ultimately losing all fear of judgement or rejection by others.
In The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan develops the idea that changing an individual’s perspective can help one accept his/her culture, family, and ultimately oneself, causing the individual to acknowledge the power and virtues possessed within. Primarily, Amy Tan explores the relationships between immigrant parents and their American born children, showing the effort to make them appreciate their heritage. By accepting the differences between cultures, an individual accepts the people and the beauty of one’s culture.
June, one of the daughters, takes a trip to China, where she realizes that her culture is an unchangeable part of her. She begins to see the beauty of her culture: “And I can’t help myself. I also have misty eyes, as if I had seen this a long, long time ago, and had almost forgotten” (268). This quote shows major character development since the beginning of the book, when June had said, “It was one of those Chinese expressions that mean the better half of mixed intentions. I can never remember things I didn’t understand in the first place” (19).
The contrast in these two quotes shows June’s growth and acceptance of her culture. The second quote shows the biases that June had; she was stereotypical about Chinese culture and liked to disassociate herself from it. When she changes her perspective, she acknowledges the differences between the American culture and Chinese culture without any biases. After her mother’s death, June uses her culture to honour and remember her mother: “I found some old Chinese silk dresses, the kind with little slits up the sides.
I rubbed the old silk against my skin, then wrapped them in tissue and decided to take them home with me” (143). June soaks in the beauty of her culture by rubbing the silk against her skin. Wrapping the old Chinese dresses in tissue symbolizes her realization of the value of her culture; that old traditions, just like the old silk, must be taken care of and carried forward. It is easy for people of the same culture to relate with each other: “I asked him why, which is a nosy question that only one Chinese person can ask another; in a crowd of Caucasians, two Chinese people are already like family” (198).
When June develops a connection with the people of her culture, she accepts herself as a part of them, becoming more comfortable with herself, which is something she might not have done had she been ashamed of her culture as she was at the beginning of the book. It is therefore evident that The Joy Luck Club explores the importance of seeing the beauty in one’s culture and accepting the differences between cultures without any biases. Subsequently, Tan shows that one’s parents must be respected and honoured for who they are and it is important to fulfill one’s own responsibility towards them in order to discover oneself.
Waverly and her mother Lindo Jong do not share the strongest relationship, but by changing her perspective, Waverly sees her mother’s innocence: And hiding in this place, behind my invisible barriers, I knew what lay on the other side: Her side attacks. Her secret weapons. Her uncanny ability to find my weakest spots. But in the brief instant that I had peered over the barriers I could finally see what was really there: an old woman, a wok for her armor, a knitting needle for her sword, getting a little crabby as she waited patiently for her daughter to invite her in.
Waverly thought she knew her mother, but her opinion was biased, she did not see the reality. She accepts her mother by choosing to look realistically. The scar on An-mei’s neck is used to symbolize her relationship with her mother who caused her a lot of pain but was always a part of her even though An-mei had nearly forgotten her. When she reappeared in An-mei’s life, An-Mei had to erase the scars she had in order to appreciate and respect her mother: “This is how a daughter honors her mother. It is shou so deep it is in your bones.
The pain of the flesh is nothing. The pain you must forget” (48). As with culture, An-mei’s family is a constant part of her, so she is accepting herself by respecting her mother. In a family, members must give as much as they receive. In this novel, the roles of mothers and daughters in each other’s lives are equally explored: “And the daughter said ‘Now you must come back, to the other side. Then you can see why you were wrong. ’ And the girl grabbed her mother’s hand and pulled her through the wall” (115).
Lena’s mother, Ying-Ying, shows signs of being mentally unstable, so Lena learns early on that she must support her mother. By supporting each other equally, they develop trust in each other. Through Lena’s realization of her responsibility, she accepts her mother. Thus, Amy Tan develops that by viewing their family realistically, the member’s responsibilities towards them becomes evident. Lastly, being comfortable with oneself entirely requires one to believe in his/her capabilities, obliterating all fear of being judged by others.
Lindo constantly blames Waverly for not having a Chinese character. However, when Lindo takes the blame, she comes to terms with herself and her guilt: “I gave my daughter these faults. The same eyes, the same cheeks, the same chin. Her character, it came from my circumstances” (265). It is essential for Lindo to look at herself honestly so she can acknowledge her faults and work on them so she can ultimately become a better individual. Rose, one of the daughters, has lived her life in self-doubt, relying on her husband to make all the decisions.
The turning point in her life comes through her divorce: “And below the heimongmong, all along the ground, were weeds already spilling out over the edges, running wild in every direction” (196). The weeds symbolize the self-confidence and power that is set free when Rose decides not to be swayed by the expectations of others which ultimately leads to her becoming comfortable with herself. June and Waverly have been competing with each other since childhood. As a result, June is afraid of being outshone by Waverly even as an adult.
However, everything changes with a change in June’s perspective: “And I no longer felt angry at Waverly. I felt tired and foolish, as if I had been running to escape someone chasing me, only to look behind and discover there was no one there” (207). June realizes that Waverly’s opinion of her does not matter as long as she remains self-confident and comfortable with herself. Clearly then, the author develops the idea that it is vital to accept oneself for one’s identity and beliefs. In The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan explores the various ways in which acceptance is vital to discover one’s power and self-confidence.
Acceptance is the key to interconnectedness with one’s culture, family and oneself. Most immigrants in North America struggle to make their children accept their culture. Many teenagers get the sense that they are not accepted because of the pressures put by parents. However, they must learn to take the relationship into their own hands. Acceptance must be shown globally as well, which could lead to significant reductions in crime worldwide. If everyone accepts each other’s cultures and religions, hatred cannot prevail. However, the first step to accepting others’ beliefs is to be confident about one’s own beliefs.
January 9, 2018
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