Cultural Conflict and Compatibility between Chinese Cultures and American
----- Appreciation of the Joy Luck Club
Abstract: This paper analyses psychological estrangement and emotional
conflict arising from the difference in values, family concept, explores the mutual compatibility between Chinese culture and American culture.
Key words: The Joy Luck Club; Cultural conflict; Culture compatibility;
Chinese culture; American culture.
In the film the Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan describes the conflicts between the
mothers and the daughters. The misunderstandings between the mothers and the daughters in the film are caused by the different culture and experiences. Fortunately, through painful efforts, the mothers and the daughters begin to understand and communicate each other at the end of the story, which metaphorically demonstrates the transition of the relationship between Chinese and American culture from conflicts to blending. From this film, we can analyze psychological estrangement and emotional conflict arising from the difference in values, family concept, explores the mutual compatibility between Chinese culture and American culture.
?. Cultural Conflicts between Chinese and American Cultures
In film The Joy Lucky Club, there are the conflicts between mothers and
daughters and between wives and husbands. Because mothers still have Chinese thoughts for growing up in china. However, children have been an American for growing up in America. On the other hand, children still have some Chinese thought so that they clash with their husbands.
2.1 culture conflicts and values
Mothers and daughters have some conflicts on educating children for having different values. In America, they believe in equality which emphasize in everything from government (“All men are created equal”) to social relationships given more
freedom than China. Furthermore, individualism is the most important pattern which refers to the doctrine that the interest of the individual are or ought to be paramount, and that all values, rights, and duties originate in individuals. It emphasizes individual independence. So in America, children are independence and belong to government. They have equal right with their mothers.
However, Chinese think children are the property of parents. They won’t feel
anger even when their parents ask them to submit. So Chinese mothers get used to painting blue-prints for their children. What’s more, Mothers like comparing with
others to show off their daughters and good educating methods. For example, June mother had a high expectation on her daughter. She hoped her daughter to be a talent. However, June thought that it’s her own life and her mother couldn’t intervene. So she
fought against her mother by failing in matches and thought that her mother won’t ask
her to play piano again. But the mother dragged her from the TV to play piano and said that the daughter must submit her mother. So June’s anger erupted: “I’m not your
slave. It isn’t in China. You can’t make me. You want me to be someone I’m not. I never can be the kind of daughter you want me to be.” This contradiction is because
Chinese parents believe in the old saying, “A strict teacher produces outstanding
students”, strictness and criticism are important educating guide lines for Chinese
parents, which results in obedience and collectivism, compromise, no psyche and no guts to say no. their duty is to make children successes.
On the other hand, Waverly was a talented chess player in her youth, who even won Chess Champion in Chinatown once. But one day, the war between her and her mom broke out, “Why do you use me to show off? I wish you wouldn’t do that telling everyone I’m your daughter. It’s embarrassing.” Little Waverly said to her mom
straightforward, and inevitably, the words deeply stabbed and hurt the mother’s heart and pride. This contradiction results from Chinese mother thought that daughter’s pride is mother’s pride. But in America, people think children’ success is their own
2.2 culture conflicts and family concept
Wives and husbands conflict on the role of wives for family concept. The family is the primary or basic institution of any society.” In American, many people
accept such life creed,“Everybody is for oneself. God is for everybody; each person is his or her own destiny architect.” Wife and husband are equal. They have their own idea and hope each other to express their opinions. And they like discrete type of family. However, in China, affected by the feudalism, people are tending to dominate the husband; the wife just need help her husband. What’s more, the close geography
and the Confucianism result in the Chinese collective type of family.
Four daughters still have Chinese thought--- stand and dominate husband. For example, Lena married to her boss Harold who paid himself seven and a half times more than he paid Lena, but sarcastically, they paid everything 50/50. If Harold ordered three courses and Lena only ask for a salad, they still split it into half and half. Magazines, ice-creams and that stuff that Lena would not touch also need to share the money in half. That was what they called——equal. This equality on the surface was
definitely unequal in real. But Lena dared not protest. She felt sick of the so-called equal, but didn’t bold enough to change it, because she was accustomed to submit, to give in, and to swallow the pain in order to avoid conflict and keep in harmony.
Another example is Roes who married Ted, a white man, whose dad was on publishing empire, and mom’s family had wineries. Though gigantic differences in social status and wealth they had, Rose and Ted married happily and had a lovely daughter. But good time did not last long. For years, Rose endeavored to look after the family and take care of all the chores perfectly, but Ted just took all the things for granted and became bored to her. He talked to her less and less, and finally got an affair. Evaluating the role of being a wife, Rose was a qualified one beyond doubt, while assessing being Rose herself, she should get a low mark, because her smartness, wit, confidence and youth gradually elapsed. She desired nothing for herself, like comfort from Ted and acclaim for a delicate arrangement. In a word, she lost herself. On the verge of divorce, her mother A Mei said to her,“What are you going to ask for?
What is your worth?”These words sobered Rose who used to think that her love was less worth than her husband’s. After the change, she soon won her husband back.
?. Cultural Compatibility between Chinese Cultures and American Cultures
At the last of this film, all mothers had a good relationship with their daughters. This ending is happy and stands for the compatibility between Chinese cultures and American cultures. But why the mothers and the daughters’ relationship turn
good. That result from communication and love. For example, Waverly tries her best to please Lin Duo in everything. Whether her mother approves or not becomes the master of all her choice. Even Waverly marries a Chinese man because Lin Duo likes Chinese, while she doesn’t love. Waverly doesn’t understand why Lin Duo disapproves or criticizes whatever she has done. On the other side, Lin Duo thinks that her daughter is ashamed of her, which is her continual internal injury after Waverly’s winning that chess contest, when Waverly shouted to Lin Duo if Lin Duo wanted to show off, won the chest by herself. Every time, Lin Duo’s disagreement with or indifference to Waverly directly results from the thought that Waverly feels it shameful to be her daughter. Both of them deeply love each other, but in the meantime, they hostile and hurt one another. This is the way them get along with each other. Fortunately, they clear up their misunderstandings and discover themselves by communicating. Waverly says to Lindo, sobbing, “You don't know, you don't know the power you have over me. One word from you, one look, and I are four years old again, crying myself to sleep, because nothing I do can ever, ever please you.” And
after a short period of silence, Lindo smiles to Waverly with tears in her eyes, “Now, you make me happy.” Then they laugh heartily, teary-eyed with happiness. At last,
they knew each other and didn’t misunderstand each other.
The cultural conflict and the cultural compatibility exist in every place. In the conflict period, there are many conflicts for many reasons, but we should communicate with each other and handle these conflicts with love.
1. Amy Tan. The Joy Luck Club. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons Inc， 1989.