Personal Individuality As Base Of American Ideology (In Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan)


There are many ways to look at American Ideology, but a consistent values that most Americans share is the idea of prioritizing personal individuality. Having some individuality in itself is not a bad thing; however, American’s definition of individuality air’s farther to the concept of self-centered. Amy Tan uses the relationships between the China born mothers and American born daughters to display the negative effect’s of American’s self-centered ideology, and how it affect’s their lives. In Joy Luck Club, Tan uses storytelling and the different viewpoint’s of storytellers to show that American individualism ideology create’s detrimental mindset’s that foster self-centered thinking.

Tan shows that the daughters face struggles in their lives because of self-centered thinking through the narration of their lives. The daughters narrations give lot’s of insite into how American society affect’s their way of thinking. Waverly’s story take’s a sharp turn from innocent child like nature to self-centered American. Her brother get’s a chess set for for Christmas, and like most children are, she is very curious about this paquier new game, but there “American rules” confuse her, she doesn’t understand them(95). For the majority of her life Waverly has absorbed her mothers teaching, but now she has been given a new set of “rules” to absorb. Waverly learned these rules, and she’s incorporated them into herself, but they start changing her. Her mothers teachings say to “bit back your tongue”(89) and what she want’s will come to her, but the American rules preach that it’s best to seek others weaknesses, then exploit them. Slowly, but surely, Waverly’s mindset is changing. The American rules overthrow her mothers teachings, and a new person rises from the ashes. The more she win’s, the more she want’s. All the way to being sconful of the pride her mother has in her. When Waverly shames her mother for bragging and boasting about Waverly’s accomplishment’s, she’s no longer “bit[ting]” her tongue back, she’s using it as a weapon to lash out(89). Soon after, Waverly find’s she “could no longer see the secret weapons of each piece”, she only see’s “my[her] mistakes, my[her] weaknesses”(190). Waverly only see’s her “mistakes” and “weaknesses” because that’s all she’s focusing on now, herself(190). How can she the weakness in others when all she can shee is herself? The answer is, she can’t. Her naratice oze’s a self-absorbed persona, and yet she never realizes the reason why she loses her special powers. Although, maybe people can’t see changes like that in themselves on their own? The wat Tan uses Waverly’s naratio masterly show’s how adapting such a closed, self-centered, mindset makes life harder then it need’s to be.

Tan continues to use the storyteller viewpoints to show negative affects of the American ideology of individualism with the outside perspectives that the mothers provide. Ying-ying, mother of Lena expresses her frustration that Lena “will not listen”, she hears what her mother says but she’s actively disregarding her mothers wisdom(275). Ying-ying tries to impart wisdom to her daughter whenever she get’s the chance to, but Lena is so saturated in her own self interest that Ying-ying compares her to “a bottomless pond”(274). When something is “bottomless” there is no end, which Ying-ying uses to imply that no matter what she say’s to Lena it never sinks in. Instead, it just keeps sinking and sinking. Furthermore, it infers that the “pond” will never fill up, so no matter how much effort Ying-ying put’s in, she will never get anywhere with Lena(274). Storytelling is the art of expressing emotion and feeling poeticly, which her analogy does beautifly. In a simply phase she’s expressing all of her pain, sorrow, frustration, and disapointment. Lindo also shows how she see’s her daughter, Waverly, has changed for the worse. She want’s her children to have the best of “Amreican circumstances and Chinese character”(289). Unfortunately, Waverly has let the way’s of Americans take over completely, she has abandoned her “Chinese character”, in favor of indulging herself(289). Lindo has realized that “these two things do not mix”, that American ideology doesn’t play nice, it over throws and takes over(289). Her narrative expresses realizations that can only be seen by looking carefully. She see’s that America is a wolf in sheeps clothing, it says it is peaceful. Yet history record’s the awful truth, that America takes what it wants. Only caring about what it want’s. The mothers see these changes in their daughters, the see the American’s self-centerd nature bloom, and yet all they can do is watch it all unfold.

By absorbing American rules, Waverly has changed as a person. Although, her narrative speaks volumes in that she never realises how American ideology changed her. Infact, none of the daughters really ever realized all their struggles began once they let the American way completely overtake them. Even though the mothers understand that fully falling under American spell is harmful, no matter what they try they can’t help their daughters understand this. Tan uses these narratives to show that American individualism makes it impossible to achieve personal growth, and even harder to see the truths staring right at them.

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