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Joy Luck Club and American Culture
Section One (1-2 paragraph summary). Introduce and summarize the main plot of the movie. Describe the main story and characters involved. To do this in 1-2 paragraphs, you will need to be brief and focus on the main events in the movie.
The Joy Luck Club (1993) was based on Amy Tan's 1989 novel and deals with issues of culture, assimilation and generation conflicts between a group of four Chinese mothers and their Americanized daughters. All four women in the club had emigrated from China to the U.S. after World War II, and met after church to play Chinese mahjong every week. In reality, they had little joy or luck, and no expectations, only the hope that their children would have better lives than theirs. An-mei Hsu and her daughter Rose were often in conflict over her American husband Ted Jordan, who was wealthy, and the fact that she regarded Rose as too weak and passive. Lindo Jong has a daughter named Waverly, who was a childhood chess prodigy until she and her mother had an argument, and then she lost the power to play. Lindo also dislikes her American boyfriend Rich, but regards Waverly as superficially successful. Suyuan Woo, the mother of June, was the founder of the club and after her daughter's death she took her place, playing with her three older 'aunties'. Ying-ying St. Clair, married to an American named Clifford, is also very passive and inert, as is her daughter Lena.
The four daughters are completely American by Asian standards, speak perfect English and have assimilated into Western culture. None of them have even been to China, although June flies there to meet the twin daughters who had become separated from her during the war. All the parents in this film operate according to Confucian values, which are authoritarian, hierarchical and paternalistic, although the Americanized children often find them incomprehensible. China has never been a democracy in the Western sense, and women there were definitely not equal to men while children were required to honor, respect and obey their parents. Women's function in life was domestic, to take care of the cooking, cleaning, child care and domestic tasks while men worked outside. Individualism and independence were not prized as in the U.S. But regarded as selfishness and purely negative qualities. In the U.S., however, most "believe that they must be self-reliant in order to keep their freedom," while in China no one had any freedom to lose (Datesman, p. 30).
Section two (1-2 paragraph application): Discuss the themes shown or explored in the movie in relation to what you have read or studied/will read or study in class before your midterm exam. For example, maybe the movie has characters of mixed races like the 'Tiger Woods effect' or it shows cultural pluralism as people from many races or religions must work together or overcome some of their differences. These are ideas you studied in chapter 1 of American Ways. Be sure to consider the 6 basic values in Chapter 2: individual freedom and self-reliance, equality of opportunity and competition, and material wealth and hard work. However, any topic you have studied, talked about, or read about or you will study, talk about, or read about before your midterm exam could be used in this section. Discuss at least 3 themes seen in the movie, but include more if possible.
Confucian values are in direct contrast with those of America and the West, and this comes out in virtually every scene. Even though the older women are Christians and had been subject to some Western influences in China, their core values are not individualism, personal success, pluralism and equality of opportunity, as in the United States. For example, when Rose married Ted Jordan, over the objections of his racist parents, she found herself slipping into the role of a dutiful Confucian wife, concentrating only on cooking, cleaning and obeying her husband in all matters, until he finally became bored with her and started having an affair. Individualism and freedom have been core American values since 1776 at least, but this has never been the case in China (Datesman, 2005, p. 29). Even though Rose was Americanized, she knew no other way to be a wife than her mother's example. "I like being tragic," she says to her mother after their divorce, "I learned it from you',…[continue]
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