The Joy Luck Club narrates how the different individuals either resist or embrace the challenge to belong through how cultural and familial influences are handled. These females belong to a bicultural community, which blends occidental and oriental philosophies. Belonging to this bicultural community produces divided loyalties therefore belonging is problematic. As a consequence of this problem, individuals might resist or embrace their challenge in order to belong. Resisting the challenge as seen in The Joy Luck Club may cause disorientation, alienation and resentment. However embracing the challenge nurtures camaraderie, security and kinship. Belonging to a family is nearly always a case of being loving, reliable and trustworthy; however being provocative, having a chip on your shoulder or non-conformist can hinder a relationship.
Challenges that confront an individual can either be ignored or embraced although when accepted, an individual may find they belong to a certain group. Values and attitudes differ from person to person and the way that messages are communicated can alter a persons outlook. In section 2, Rules of the Game, Lindo teaches Waverly about invisible strength, to withhold information or keep a secret, which is what Lindo did with her identity during her first marriage. Although the Mother and Daughter perspectives differ as each interpret the message differently. Waverly uses the principle of invisible strength to be triumphant at chess of which she views as, “a game of secrets in which one must show and never tell” (pg.96). This quote highlights how instead of seeing ‘Invisible Strength’ as something to do with strategy, Waverly views it as a way to win and seek power.
The theme of rules and games in this chapter gives the reader insight into how Waverly has interpreted her mothers guidance. During Waverly’s chess match she notices, “a light wind…blowing past my ears. It whispered secrets only I could hear” (pg.96). Waverly uses strategy in a game of power struggle, the same way she views her mother, although Waverly does not know the rules of the game that Lindo is playing. After Waverly returns home from her brief stunt of running away from her Mother in the street, she has an altered view of her Mother, “Opposite me was my opponent, two angry black slits” (pg.100).This quote uses metaphorical language to effectively convey how Waverly uses strategic thinking to interact with her Mother. This challenge to belong was resisted by Waverly as she was not able to see her Mothers advice and presence as nurturing, instead she viewed her mother as an all-powerful figure, which eventually overwhelmed Waverly into a world of strategy, and power struggles.
Belonging is an evolutionary experience where an individual must experience both connection and disconnection. In The Voice from the Wall, Lena St Clairs’ tells the story of how her Mother Ying-Ying is depressed, introverted and mentally haunted from her traumatic past, “and they still found her, I watched, over the years, as they devoured her, piece by piece until she disappeared and become a ghost” (pg.103). She has lost her identity and Lena has the overpowering need to save her. The disconnection between mother and daughter affects their ability to recognize each others need for eachother and their relationship suffers. Ying-Yings terror of life is passed onto Lena who sees those terrors through her “Chinese eyes, the part of me I got from my mother” (pg.103).
This metaphor has two meanings, literally Lena did inherent her ‘Chinese eyes’ from her Chinese mother although in this reference she describes how the scared outlook of her Mother has been passed on to Lena. This scared outlook is demonstrated through her perception on the sounds of the mother and daughter fighting next door. Lena imagines the Mother with “a sword high above a girl’s head and was starting to slice her life away” (pg 110), which is metaphorically describing how Lena feels her own Mother, is influencing her. Lena is emotionally drained from trying to save her mother from the depressive veil that engulfs her; the constant strain by Lena for a connection with her Mother takes a toll on her outlook and perception on life. The mother and daughter fighting next door is physical and exposed, however Lena and her mothers struggle is all emotional and internal. Lena questions whether “which was worse, our side or theirs?” (pg 113) as she realizes the pain and struggles that are occurring all around her. The severe contrast between internal and external battles scares Lena, “I has such fears inside, not in my head but in my stomach. I could no longer see what was so scary, but I could feel it” (pg.113) and now the physical effects are exposing themselves and taking a toll on Lena’s wellbeing. The disconnection that is between Lena and her Mother creates an inability to belong for either individual and the challenge to belong engulfs their lives creating a barrier between the two.
A traumatic experience may lead an individual to lose their sense of identity therefore in order to survive and find a sense of belonging they must adapt. The challenge to belong is something that is derived from an individuals past circumstances that greatly affects their sense of identity and self-confidence. The death of her little brother was the defining moment in Roses’ life that affected her confidence and belief in herself. It affected her ability to hold responsibility and make decisions; this forms a passive and controlling dynamic between Rose and her husband Ted. This leads to the downfall of their marriage as Teds confidence in himself is shaken and wants Rose to make some decisions, “No, you decide. You cant have it both ways, none of the responsibility and none of the blame” (pg.126). Roses mother An-mei encourages her to take some responsibility, “You must think for yourself, what you must do. If someone tells you, then you are not trying” (pg.140). This chapter is about the changing expectations that the mother and daughter relationship; it represents how experiences and challenges can force an individual to adapt to survive in order to belong.
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