Maria Leonor Martínez Rengifo
Professor Mercedes Peñalba García
The One and The Many: A Short Story Composite
5th May, 2012
THE JOY LUCK CLUB
This Short Story Composite is written by Amy Tan, an immigrant to the United States of Chinese origins, whose parents arrive in America in. In 16 short stories The Joy Luck Club is a blend of autobiography, fairy tale, religion, and history; a tale of Chinese families that immigrate to the United States leaving behind pains and sorrows, yet with a desire to make their future bright. It is actually Amy Tan’s story disclosing many Chinese customs and values.
It is a Spanish motto that the future of a child lays in his/her mother’s hands ("Diana de Molinicos, Refranes"), and this saying or adage echoes as well in the words of Daisy, Tan’s mother, in the book’s preface:
“In America I will have a daughter just like me. But over there nobody will say her worth is measured by the loudness of her husband’s belch. Over there nobody will look down on her, because I will make her speak only perfect American English.”
It is consequently no surprise that Amy Tan presents the book in homage to her mother, “To my mother and the memory of her mother… You asked me once what I would remember… This and much more” (Tan).
In China the family plays a central function and the roles of its members in Chinese society have been greatly influenced by religion: Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. Bound by their religious beliefs, the Chinese are expected to behave properly in society and in the family as well. Each individual is expected to practice self-restraint and there is stress on meditation, to break away from being tempted by material life to the extent of becoming obsessed with it ("Chinese Culture Family Life".)
“The Chinese mothers in the novel are very traditional themselves, but they want their daughters to be educated and successful. They also want them to possess a modern outlook and attitude, without abandoning their heritage. In essence, the mothers in the novel reflect the character of Daisy Tan, and the daughters exhibit the rebellious attitude of Amy Tan” (Asnes, and Kissel).
Born in Oakland, California, in 1952 she settled with her parental family in San Clara, California. Her father and brother died within months of each other, after which Daisy Tan moved with Amy to Switzerland. It was during this grieving time that Amy learnt of her mother’s past in China, where she had been first married to an abusive person and had had three daughters whom she would not see for nearly forty years. It was after returning from China with her mother in 1987 and meeting her three half-sisters that Amy Tan was actually inspired to write her first book, The Joy Luck Club.
“We all had our miseries. But to despair was to wish back for something already lost…so we decided to hold parties and pretend each week had become the new year…and that is how we came to call our little parties Joy Luck” (Tan, pp.24-25). This is how the book has come to be called The Joy Luck Club, which wins in 1989 both the National Book Award for fiction and the L.A. Times Book Award.
The purpose of the present paper is to identify the elements of cohesion and the elements of fragmentation in this Short Story Composite, using mainly the taxonomy of Rudolf Lundén (United Stories of America).
ELEMENTS OF FRAGMENTATION
Openness or Narrative Indeterminacy
The stories are not a prolongation one of the other nor can the reader predict what is to follow. Each story is narrated by different authors whether it is by one of the three mother-members or by their daughters. Though all are related to the club, none of the stories exercise an influence on the next.
“It is also true of such an open narrative as the composite … If openness means that a major conflict is unresolved, most short story composites are open...most...
"Country Facts & Information 2004." Chinese Culture Family Life. N.p., 29 March 2010. Web. 1 May 2012. http://www.kwintessential.co.uk/articles/china/chinese-culture-family-life/1781 .
"Refranero Temático, 2007." Diana de Molinicos, Refranes. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 May 2012. http://www.molinicos.net/otraspaginas/refrantema.htm .
Asnes, Tania, and Kissel, Adam. "The Joy Luck Club Summary." Grade Saver LLC.. N.p., 27 March 2006 and 12 May 2006. Web. 1 May 2012. http://www.gradesaver.com/the-joy-luck-club/study-guide/short-summary/ .
Manzanas, Ana Maria. Professor at Universidad de Salamanca.
Peñalba, Mercedes. Professor at Universidad de Salamanca, School of Philology.
Tan, Amy. The Joy Luck Club. London: Vintage, 1998. Print.
I am indebted to Universidad de Salamanca’s lecturers, who have contributed to my creating new knowledge.
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