Amy Tan and the Formation of Identity

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Ann Oakley once said “Women as the guardians of children possess a great power. They are the molders of their children’s personalities and the arbiters of their development” (Mothers Quotations, 2010). This quote clearly reflects the importance of a mother’s role when it comes to the identity formation of her children. Research from Pennsylvania State University revealed that the tie between mothers and daughters is so enduring that 80 to 90 percent of women in mid-life state that they have a good relationship with their mother even though there are conflicts and complex feelings (Mother Daughter Relationship, 2011). Along the process of growing up, a daughter observes her mother’s actions and may consciously or unconsciously integrate some of those traits into the developing self. Therefore, mothers have the power to set the course of their daughters’ lives.

Overall, The Bonesetter’s Daughter stress the importance of mother daughter relationship in explaining and defining the identities of the daughter. It includes the lives of the three women which include Precious Auntie/Gu Liu Ying, the Chinese mother and grandmother, LuLing Lie Young, the Chinese daughter and Chinese American mother and Ruth Luyi Young, the American daughter, imbibed with Chinese culture and tradition, where Tan emphasizes the spanning shift of three generation stating their journey from China and rested it in new found land, America. Through the perspective of object relation theory, the study between mother daughter relationship in identity formation of the three different sorts of daughter as Chinese daughters, Chinese American daughters and American daughters , and with four generational groups such as great-grand mothers, grandmothers, mothers and daughters.

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This new understanding enables mother and daughter to reconcile. They also discover the value of forgiveness and learn how to accept each other. The influence that the mothers have on the daughters’ characters is illustrated by the object relations theory. Marshall (1998) claimed that early interactions with one’s caregivers, especially parents, shape one’s identity. It is relevant to the novel as the mothers are ones who determine the personalities of their daughters. This theory has three main “affects” which include attachment, frustration and rejection. The daughters undergo these stages before they can build more concrete identities. The attachment stage is where the daughters identify with their mothers despite having a complex relationship. The frustration stage occurs when the daughters begin to feel dissatisfaction towards their mothers. At this stage, they start to retaliate against their mother’s wishes. Finally, the rejection stage takes place when the daughters begin viewing their mothers as abusive and defend themselves in various ways.

The perspective of personality development theory can explain the development of issue of culture and identity in the novel. This theory emphasize that the human development unfolds eight stages. There is a psychosocial crisis in every stage and one needs to resolve it appropriately to proceed to other stages (Cherry, 2010a). Adolescence stage the job is to achieve ego identity and keep away from role confusion. Ruth is sent spiraling into role confusion due to her mixed heritage. Being a teenager, she yearns to fit into her surroundings. Thus, she embraces the American ways of life and stubbornly denies her Chinese heritage because she links it to LuLing’s “humiliating” behavior. At the end of the story, however, Ruth succeeds in achieving ego identity and acquires a sense of fidelity after learning about LuLing’s past. Once she acknowledges her mother and Chinese ancestry, Ruth is able to build a stronger ethnic identity.

All in all, the mothers participate actively when it concerns the identity formation of their daughters. They have a great influence on the daughters’ developing personalities even though their relationships are not smooth sailing all the time. The daughters in The Bonesetter’s Daughter are given the opportunity to uncover another side of themselves with the help of their mothers. This revelation gives them a new lease of life and imbues them with the courage needed to face challenges. The mothers’ choices of revealing their pasts also enable both parties to fix their difficult relationship. There is reconciliation and healing as mother and daughter put behind past disagreements and begin anew. When they understand their mothers’ past with clarity, their new understanding enables both mothers and daughters to reconcile. They discover the value of forgiveness and learn to accept each other. Eventually, the sense of place—China—is very much seen at the heart of all strong mothers in Tan’s fiction, they ,alongside their daughters, are able to create a new space for themselves to live a life without concern over borders. As Amy Tan says, that is the way it is with a wound. The wound begins to close in on itself, to protect what is hurting so much. And once it is closed, you no longer see what is underneath, what started the pain.

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