Communication Barriers within The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

Essay by richcatUniversity, Bachelor'sA-, June 2008

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In the novel The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, the mothers and daughters share relationships that are complex and unique. Besides being family, the women share hopes, fears and a culture that extends deep for some and not far for others. On the surface, a group that seemingly has so much in common is surprisingly lacking in understanding for the other generation. The communication between the characters is not always clear, mixed up by language and generational barriers as well as the "Americanized" daughters being unable, or unwilling, to listen fully to their Chinese mothers.

The first barrier that seems to make life difficult for these women and in some cases, their spouses, is the language difference. Many of the daughters have a very slim grasp on the Chinese dialect of their mothers and in turn, some of the mothers struggle with English. In the case of the St.

Clair family, the group is further splintered because Clifford, the husband of Ying-ying and father of Lena, has never learned fluent Chinese and Ying-ying has never learned fluent English, so the breakdown in communication starts with the parents and moves onto the children. When the mothers and daughters are able to communicate and make an attempt at finding common ground, their attempts are derailed by a lack of English words to substitute the meaning of Chinese words. Some of the phrases or lessons told by the mothers lose their meaning in a way because there is no English word that means the same as what they are trying to say in Chinese. An example of this is when June tries to understand the meaning of the Joy Luck Club's name. There appears to be no satisfying English explanation for the sentiment behind the idea of Joy Luck. It is tragic...