Joy Luck Club Symbols Essay

In China, red is used to symbolize prosperity and good luck. A candle with a wick on both ends is lit to represent the happiness of a newly married couple. It is Chinese custom to light both ends and let them burn the whole night. If neither wick extinguishes during the night, it is said that the marriage will be successful and the bond is complete. Lindo Jong and her husband took part in this tradition. However, Lindo believed and felt that her “marriage” was not what she wanted, and she did not want to waste her life being unhappy or discontented.

For that reason, she secretly blew out her husband’s side of the candle. Lindo later reported to her mother-in-law that the fire had went out, indicating that her marriage with Huang Tyan-yu was not a true one. In her own words, Lindo states “The candle was a marriage bond that . . . meant I couldn’t divorce and I couldn’t ever remarry. ” She believes in her own will rather than the fate inevitably determined ahead of her. This is an example of the traditional Chinese culture and one woman’s self-assertion to take control of her own fate.

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Jing-mei (June) Woo, the character, is a symbol herself of Westernization of Chinese-Americans. Once she travels to China to visit her deceased mother, she realizes what Chinese culture is all about and what she has been culturally unaware of all this time. Jing-mei and the other daughters always identified themselves as Americans, but often doubted whether or not they should be speaking the Chinese language to keep their cultural identity alive within themselves.

Additionally, Jing-mei is representative of Chinese and American comparisons in culture. The mothers in this novel maintained high expectations of their daughters, emphasizing filial obedience and giving constructive criticism all the time. These experiences clashed with American virtues of free speech and free will. After her visit to China, Jing-mei resolves the missing cultural values of herself and the Joy Luck Club and later brings them back to the other daughters as well.


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