The Joy Luck Club

The Joy Luck Club Essay Questions

  1. 1

    Consider the various factors contributing to the rift between each mother and daughter. How much of the miscommunication and misunderstanding is a result of cultural differences, and how much is the result of generational differences? Include any other contributing factors.

  2. 2

    The novel often focuses attention on how the mothers instruct their daughters and influence their decisions. Focus instead on the daughters: what do they teach their mothers, and how do they affect their mothers' decisions?

  3. 3

    Does Jing-mei succeed or fail to honor and/or fulfill her mother's legacy? If she succeeds, how in detail does she do so? If she fails, what would she have to do in order to succeed?

  4. 4

    Explore the ways that both Chinese and American superstition drive the characters' thoughts and choices. Does superstition help the generations connect, or does it separate them?

  5. 5

    Consider the legacy of the original Joy Luck Club begun by Suyuan Woo in war-torn Kweilin. Were the group's original intentions carried through to its second incarnation in San Francisco? Can the spirit of the Joy Luck Club be maintained now that Suyuan Woo has died? Will it vanish with the mothers' generation? Does it fulfill a need for the younger generation, or does something else now fulfill that generation's needs?

  6. 6

    Consider how violence and pain manifest themselves in each generation, and to what end. According to Tan's presentation, is suffering an integral part of understanding one's heritage, or is it just an unfortunate side effect of digging into the past?

  7. 7

    Although much of the plot of each story revolves around men, The Joy Luck Club as a whole centers on the relationships between mothers and daughters. How would the book differ if the Chinese characters were fathers and sons instead? What do the characters find particularly female about their life experiences and points of view?

  8. 8

    How do the generations differ in their ideas about love and family? How does each difference manifest itself in the way each generation deals with issues such as marriage, divorce, and child rearing?

  9. 9

    Lindo Jong says that one always sacrifices part of oneself by putting on one's "American face" or one's "Chinese face." What do you think defines each of these faces, and what is lost when the wearer dons each one?

  10. 10

    How do buildings and other enclosed spaces express the importance of family or other themes in the novel? Consider the caves of Kweilin, the estate of Wu Tsing, the home of Suyuan and Canning Woo, the multilevel house of Suyuan Wu, the Huang estate, and the hotel where Jing-mei and her family stay in Guangzhou.

  11. 11

    Pick at least one mother-daughter pair, and examine to what degree each has fulfilled the American Dream. How does the importance and/or definition of the American Dream change between generations?

  12. 12

    Examine the symbolism of games in this novel. How does the game of Mah Jong relate to the mothers' perspectives on life? How does this differ, for example, from the way Waverly Jong thinks about chess?