The Joy Luck Club

Music as a Motif in The Joy Luck Club

Music is a prevalent motif in Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club, appearing during times of loss and confusion as a reminder of the past. The vignettes all share a common thread, in that music reveals how one must acknowledge the past and learn from it in order to mature and gain wisdom.

Music is always present as a reminder of the past, especially past mistakes or regrets, throughout characters’ stories and reflections. When Ying-Ying stumbles upon the Moon Lady’s performance, she describes the performance as a song of regret: “The sad lute music began again as the sky on the stage lightened. And there stood the poor lady… An eternity had passed since she last saw her husband, for this was her fate: to stay lost on the moon, forever seeking her own selfish wishes” (82). As the Moon Lady sings her song, she remembers how she betrayed her husband and was thus separated from him. As atonement for her sins, she sings and reflects sorrowfully for an eternity, always reminding herself of her past mistakes. Jing-Mei’s recollection of her piano playing also demonstrates the prevalent theme of music as a reminder of the past: “The lid to the piano was closed, shutting out the dust, my misery, and her dreams…” (154). When the piano is shut, it...

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