The Joy Luck Club


Amy Tan

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The Joy Luck Club: Queen Mother of the Western Skies Summary & Analysis

In the fourth parable, an old woman plays with her baby granddaughter, and laments that she doesn’t know whether to teach her how to stay naïvely optimistic or how to become self-protecting. The old woman shed her innocence to protect herself from being hurt, and taught her daughter to do the same. However, as a result, both can only identify the evil in others now, which reflects a level of evil in themselves.
For the first time, a Chinese mother questions whether she was correct in passing along certain Chinese values to her daughter, and now her granddaughter.
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The baby girl laughs at the grandmother’s worry, which makes the old woman call her the “Queen Mother of the Western Skies,” a deity who has lived many lives and knows the answer to the woman’s dilemma. In her laughter, the baby seems to value laughter and optimism over cynicism. The grandmother thanks her, and asks her granddaughter to teach her mother how to laugh forever too.
Immigrating women must often prioritize self-protection and distrust to survive in a new country. However, they forget that life is about happiness too, which is what the wisest deity knows after years of making human mistakes. Sometimes daughters do know best, because they haven’t yet learned to be defensive. And so the novel makes it clear after so many lessons passed on from mother to daughter, that there are things for mothers to learn form daughters as well.
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