This study will analyze the relationship between Jing-mei "June" Woo and her mother Suyuan Woo in Amy Tan's novel The Joy Luck Club. Specifically, the study will describe how Tan brings the generational and cultural conflicts into focus through the use of characterization, point of view, and symbolism. The relationship between June and Suyuan will be shown to be based on the awakening of the daughter to the true worth of her mother's life. This awakening is meant by Tan to honor Suyuan and the other mothers and to have the reader appreciate their humanity, heritage, courage and culture. The generational and cultural conflicts are ultimately transformed into generational and cultural continuity and endurance in June's eyes.
The brief opening tale sets the stage for the exploration and appreciation of this theme. A Chinese woman has brought a swan---which she is told was once a duck which stretched it neck trying to become a goose---to America to one day give to her unborn daughter as a symbol of the capacity to become "more than what was hoped for" (Tan 3). The bird is taken by customs officers, but the woman keeps a feather, hoping one day to give it to her daughter and to tell her the story and its meaning in "perfect American English" (Tan 4). This tale is an encapsulation of the message of the June-Suyuan relationship, containing as it does both the hope for a better life passed from the mother to daughter, as well as the cultural connection with their Chinese roots.
When June joins the Joy Luck Club after her mother's death, the other members emphasize the importance of remembering her mother. June says she knows nothing about her mother, and the older women are shocked:
They are frightened. In me, they see their own daughters, just as ignorant, just as unmindful of all the truths and hopes they have brought to America. They see daughters who grow impatient when their mothers talk in Chinese. . . . They see that joy an...