In life, the bond between a mother and her daughter is highly complex, and, often, this relationship is stressed by generational divides and a lack of mutual understanding. In the case of both a cultural and generational divide, such as the one in The Joy Luck Club, the mother-daughter relationship has the potential to be stressed further. However, for this particular set of women, this is not the case. In The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan, while the environments of each generation are different, the sacrifices, methods, and wisdom used by each generation to protect their kin are similar, connected by a common culture and set of experiences across generations.
Often in the novel, as their mothers had done for them, the mothers must make sacrifices to aid their children, passing on the previous generation’s legacy. The first, and most obvious, example of this is a pivotal point in the novel. All four of the mothers featured in The Joy Luck Club are originally from China, and all four left for America, leaving behind their culture and all familiarity with the hope that their daughters would fare better in the New World. A second, prominent set of sacrifices can be seen in the interactions between An-Mei Hsu, her mother, and grandmother, affectionately called Popo. First, we see An-Mei Hsu’s mother sacrificing her physical and metaphorical “life force” in the making of a soup that, at the time, was thought to be beneficial to a family member’s health. In this case, we see An-Mei’s mother making a sacrifice for Popo, An-mei’s grandmother – a daughter-to-mother exchange. Later, we see An-Mei’s mother making the ultimate sacrifice, suicide, for her daughter, in hopes that her low status as a concubine would not be passed to her daughter. An-Mei’s mother succeeds in her goal, with her husband promising that he would, “raise Syaudi and me as his honored children … [and] to revere her as if she had been First Wife, his only wife” (240). The interactions of An-Mei’s family and
the mothers of The Joy Luck Club show that very similar sacrifices are made between family members for the sake of the other generation.
Along with sacrifices made, the mothers of the novel employ fear and superstition as a method to protect their children from both the subtle and overt dangers of the world, as their mothers had done. This can be seen, again, in the Hsu family. Popo, who serves as An-Mei’s mother-figure for a time, tells An-Mei of an evil spirit who snatches children. To combat this, Popo tells An-Mei that she is a “bad egg,” not because she wants to put down An-Mei, but because she wants to protect An-Mei from the evil spirit she believes exists. This spirit of covert motives is passed from Popo to An-Mei, who uses a similar ploy on her daughter, Rose. In Rose’s case, An-Mei uses a book, The...