The Joy Luck Club': an Illustration of Mother Daughter Relationships

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Under globalization, western ideas such as gender equality and individuality are widely spread to China. The phenomenon arouses a heated debate in the society. Some people may think that the enlightened ideas diminish Chinese’s feudal thoughts and increase their consciousness on the promotion of human rights, however, some people think that the incoming ideas will weaken traditional Chinese beliefs and do great harm to the development of Chinese people. In my opinion, I think that Chinese traditional ideas, including the implicit way of expression, gender inequality and collectivism will alienate the relationship between mother and child because they hinder communication, devalue women’s status and disrespect individuality. A movie called The Joy Luck Club is used as illustration of mother daughter relationships in this essay. Here I will be exploring how the traditional Chinese concepts lead to the isolation between parents and children by using this movie.

Examples of Mother Daughter Relationships in the Movie

The implicit way of expression among Chinese widens the communication gap between parents and children because it deprived them of the opportunity to exchange ideas. Under authoritarian rule for thousands of years in traditional society, the Chinese were told to follow the orders of the rulers and not to initiate any changes on the current institutions. Their conservative mind in turn develops their implicit way of expression towards people, even including family members. They hide their feelings and not willing to express their thoughts to people, thus making their relationship distant. Take Lindo and Waverly in Joy Luck Club as an example, Lindo, who was raised in a traditional Chinese family, never expressed any good comments about her daughter Waverly’s husband even though she was satisfied with him. Her lack of expression made Waverly think that her mother did not like her husband. She thought that her mother has been discontented with everything she did all along since she was young. Fortunately, their relationship was improved after her mother revealed her true feelings that she was satisfied with Waverly’s husband and supported her marriage.

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Another example of mother daughter relationship for this essay is drawn from Suyuan and her daughter June, Suyuan seldom expressed appreciation on June’s ability. When June’s business ideas were turned down by Waverly, Suyuan remarked that she was not able to intimate Waverly because style was something inborn and could not be taught. This implied that Waverly had style but June did not. June was frustrated for that she could never live up to her mother’s expectations. She thought that her mother looked down on her because she dropped out of school, was not married and had an unsuccessful career. This made her feel unloved and had induced quarrels with her mother. However, her mother later unhid her thought and showed her inner appreciation for June, saying that June had the best heart and made her proud. The expression of admiration made June feel relieved and thought that her mother did really like her. From these two examples, it can be seen that Chinese people’s implicit way of expression created misunderstanding between her and her daughter. This widens their communication gap and worsens their parent-child relationship.

The Chinese belief that men are superior to women reduces daughters’ sense of belonging to the family and worsens mother and child relationship. China has long been a patriarchy society where men have a much higher status than women. In a family, men lead a dominate role and make the big decisions while women have to follow. Sons are also given greater care and more resources than daughters For example, only the male descendants are eligible to receive land in land distribution and only their names will be written down in the genealogy. The daughters are neglected and their human rights are deprived of in traditional Chinese family. They do not have any individuality to make their decisions and live their own life. For example, Lindo did not have the right to choose her husband, but had to engage in arranged marriage and marry a stranger. Her freedom was deprived of by her parents. Even after she moved to her husband’s house, her low status as a woman remained unchanged. Lindo was made necessary to give birth to many grandsons upon the request of her mother-in-law. Even she did not want to, she had no free choice but to follow the orders. Lindo was oppressed and had to silently suffer it all. The lack of respect reduces her sense of belonging to the family.

Another example in the movie is about An Mei’s mother, who was raised in a traditional Chines family embedded with feudalistic beliefs. They also looked down on women and did not value their humanity. When An Mei was raped by Wu Qing, no one trusted her merely because she was a woman. All her family members and relatives did not listen to her explanation and perceived all her words as excuses. Even her mother, who was the most dependable person to her, did not believe that she was the victim. They regarded An Mei as a dirty woman and expelled her from the house. So, An Mei felt hopeless and disappointed in her family. The relationship between An Mei and her parents got worse. These examples show that gender inequality makes daughters feel lonely and unwanted. The feudal thought that men are superior to women worsens the parent-child relationship in the family. Another traditional idea held by Chinese people is that they hope their children to have a bright future that sometimes becomes the cause of conflicts between parents and children. Traditional Chinese have long had great ambitions for their children. In the old days, parents wished their children to pass the imperial examination so as to bring glory to the ancestors. In the present days, parents try their best to equip their children with different talents so as to make them stand out among peers. They will apply for a wide range of interest classes such as chess lesson and swimming lesson for their children regardless of their desires. The fact that parents place high expectation on their children and have great demand in their achievement sometimes make children stressed. This can lead to quarrels between them when children do not meet their expectation. In Joy Luck Club, Suyuan put all her hope on her daughter Jane after she abandoned her other two little children. She forced Jane to learn playing the piano and become an outstanding pianist even though Jane was not interested in it. When Jane performed badly in the piano contest, she was very discontented . She coerced Jane into practising more and more until reaching a level as high as her competitor Waverly. Jane was very unhappy and dissatisfied. For one thing, she thought that her mother did not respect her interest and forced her to do something that she did not like. For another thing, she was under great pressure due to the extremely high expectation from her mother. So, she often argued with her mother that made their relationship bad.

Fourthly, Chinese people’s family-oriented decision making disregards children’s feelings that increase their alienation towards the family. In Chinese traditional society, people value collectivism rather than individuality. They make decisions and do actions based on the interests of family as a whole at the expense of the interests of an individual. For example, in the old days parents would arrange marriage and choose partners for their children according to their family backgrounds. They would like their children to establish marital relationship with someone whose family is honourable and has high political and social status so that they can exploit the resources of the in-laws and strengthen the power of their family. Basically the decision making on marriage mainly took family interests into consideration, seldom cared about the opinions of the children. The children did not feel that they were valued by the family, instead they were just used as a tool to achieve the family’s purpose by their parents. This made the children feel isolated and harmed their perception towards the family. The situation of Waverly in Joy Luck Club can also illustrated this frustrated. For example, Waverly won the champion in a chess contest. Her mother Lindo then used her achievement as a family capital to show off to all the people around the town in order to glorify their family. However, Waverly felt embarrassed because she was a low-profile person and did not like to attract public attention. Even though Waverly spoke out her mind, Lindo ignored her feelings and still continued boasting about her daughter’s achievement. This made Waverly very angry and she decided not to play chess anymore. Lindo then accused her of being willful and disobedient who did not care about the family. This added fuel to the fire and raised Waverly’s anger even more. Waverly did not like her parents and had developed a hostile relationship with them. On the other hand, the mother Ying Ying from another family also emphasized collectivism and discouraged her daughter Lena to pursue what she wanted. She said, ‘’If you ask it, it is no longer a wish but a selfish desire. It is wrong to think of your own needs.’’ It revealed her belief that a girl should never ask but follow everything her family decides for her. This made Lena feel that her thoughts were not consistent with her mother’s, thus developing an isolated relationship with her parents. These examples clearly show that the traditional Chinese idea of collectivism disvalues individuality and ignores children’s feelings, thus worsening parent-child relationship.


Chinese traditional feudal thoughts build a alienated relationship bond between mother and child. In this essay, we have explored how this relationship is illustrated in the film 'The Good Luck Club'. The implicit way of expression makes the parents not willing to share their ideas and inner feelings to their children, thus hindering communication and causing misunderstanding with each other. In addition, the idea that men are superior than women made daughters feel ignored and unwanted, thus reducing their sense of belonging to the family. Moreover, the way that Chinese parents put much expectation on their children and eagerly hope them to succeed can sometimes make children feel stressed and stay away from their parents. Last but not least, the family-oriented decision making ignores children’s views and reduces children’s individuality, thus making them feel unimportant in the family. All these factors will diminish children’s happiness in the family and cause them to build an alienated relationship with their parents.

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