A Discussion on the Divergence of Chinese Culture in American Born Chinese Children

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In the “Joy Luck Club,” Amy Tan touches on the little-discussed issue of the divergence of Chinese culture through American children born of Chinese immigrant parents. With close reference to at least two stories in the book, I will discuss the truth of this statement.

To a certain extent, I agree with this statement. A person’s environment in which they grow up is a large factor in molding their character and being. Going by these standards, the four daughters are Chinese, yet there is more to it than meets the eye.

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First of all, the daughters speak in English, not Mandarin. Secondly, they are addressed by their English names; they do not have a Chinese name at all. They have adopted American thinking and have completely no remembrance or memory of Chinese ideals, customs, and traditions. In them, their mothers see their own daughters as ignorant, unaware of the truths and hopes they have brought to America. They see daughters who grow impatient when their mothers speak in fractured English. They see that joy and luck do not mean the same to their daughters, that to these American-born minds, joy and luck do not exist. They see daughters who will bear grandchildren born without any connective hope passed from one generation to another.

Chinese mothers were taught to desire nothing, to swallow other people’s misery, to eat their own bitterness. Yet, the daughters do not exhibit this blind obedience towards their mothers. After the failed piano recital, a quarrel broke out between June and Suyuan. June declared, “As a Chinese daughter, I don’t have to do what my mother says anymore. I wasn’t her slave. This wasn’t China” and refused to strive for perfection as her mother wanted. Her mother’s hope was for her daughter’s success, a typical Chinese expectation, yet June misinterpreted it as her mother wanting her to be someone she was not. Suyuan told June, “only one kind of daughter can live in this house,” the obedient daughter or the defiant one. Suyuan expected her daughter to obey without question, unlike an American daughter who follows her own mind. However, in the end, June chose to defy her mother, talked back to her, and even yelled, “I wish I weren’t your daughter. I wish you weren’t my mother. Then I wish I’d never been born! I wish I were dead!” This is not the typical behavior of a Chinese daughter, who would never talk back to her mother.

When Linde showed Waverly off, she was proud of her daughter for winning the chess competitions and being a chess champion. Yet, Waverly perceived it as her mother showing off. She said, “I wish you wouldn’t do that, telling everyone that your daughter is a Chinese way of thinking. A Chinese daughter would want her mother to be proud of her and would strive her best to achieve it.” Waverly dared to scold her mother, asking, “Why do you have to use me to show off? If you want to show off, why don’t you learn to play chess?” and then ran away from home. If a Chinese daughter runs away from home, it means that the family will disown her, treat her as an outcast, never accepting her and never allowing her to come back. Yet, Waverly took the American way of rebelling against her mother, not only running away, but also plotting against her own mother later, and pondering on her next move.

In ‘The Voice From The Wall’ told by Lena St. Clair, she has been using her American mind, asking what exactly happened to the beggar who was sentenced to die the death of a thousand cuts. When she asked her mother, she exclaimed, “Why do you Americans have only these morbid thoughts in your mind?” In Chinese thinking, they were only told never to question, only to know the result, not what happened. The difference is seen in the American thinking of Lena when she started hearing things from the wall which was a barricade to the next apartment. The scraping sounds, slamming, pushing, and shouts, then ‘whack, whack, whack’ made her infer that someone was being violently treated, causing her to have morbid thoughts. In ‘Rice Husband’, Ying Ying told Lena that her future husband will have one pockmark for every rice she did not finish. It was a tactic that Chinese mothers used to make their children finish their food and not waste it, but instead of finishing her food, her Americanized mind started having morbid thoughts once again, thinking that she will marry Arnold. In the end, all these thoughts caused her to waste food excessively and hoard ice-cream.

When Lena showed her mother the guest bedroom, she announced it proudly in her “American way”. However, in the Chinese way of thinking, the guest bedroom is the best bedroom, where she and her husband sleep. Even Ying Ying admits that Lena “sprang from her like a slippery fish and has been swimming ever since and that Lena does not listen to her, not in the way that traditional Chinese daughters do.” When Ying Ying thinks of reminding Lena not to put any babies in a room that has bricks sloping downwards, Lena shrugs it off as superstition. Ying Ying also regrets that she should have disciplined her more often for disrespect as Lena has adopted the American way. A Chinese daughter respects her mother more than anything.

In ‘Half and Half’ told by Rose Hsu Jordan, we see that Rose does not believe in ‘fengkan’, the ability to do anything you put your mind to, which her parents possess. She would rather consult a psychiatrist than use this ‘fengkan’ as her Chinese parents do. For Rose, the book is not credible.

The Twenty-Six Malignant Gates, is the superstition that young children were predisposed to certain dangers on certain days. She asked to see the book as she did not believe what he said about the book and shouted, “You can’t tell me because you don’t know! You don’t know anything!” Rose listened to a lot of people except her mother; she did not believe in the traditional Chinese thinking that a mother is best. A mother knows what is inside you, refusing to believe her mother that Ted is doing monkey business with someone else and not wanting to talk about Ted with her mother. Rose did not listen to her mother as she learned to let her words blow through her. She filled her mind with others.

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A Discussion on the Divergence of Chinese Culture in American Born Chinese Children. (2022, Nov 10). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/a-discussion-on-the-divergence-of-chinese-culture-in-american-born-chinese-children/