Study Help Essay Questions


1. Discuss the significance of the novel within the tradition of Chinese-American fiction.

2. Analyze the conflicts between any two of these pairs of characters:

Suyuan Woo and Jing-mei Woo

An-mei Hsu and Rose Hsu Jordan

Lindo Jong and Waverly Jong

Ying-ying St. Clair and Lena St. Clair

Clifford St. Clair and Ying-ying St. Clair

Waverly Jong and Jing-mei Woo

3. Compare and contrast the marriage of Rose Hsu Jordan and Ted Jordan to that of Lena St. Clair and Harold Livotny.

4. Explain why the three remaining women in the Joy Luck Club contribute the money to send Jing-mei to China to meet her half-sisters.

5. Discuss the function of the fairy tale in the novel.

6. What is the significance of the story of the Moon Lady?

7. What function do the four section openers, "Feathers from a Thousand Li Away," "The Twenty-Six Malignant Gates," "American Translation," and "Queen Mother of the Western Skies" serve?

8. Who do you think is stronger — the older women in the book or the younger ones? Explain your answer.

9. Show how two characters from the book search for a better life. Explain what each character tries to attain and the success of the quest.

10. Discuss how The Joy Luck Club deals with the generation gap between mothers and daughters.

11. Explain the theme of appearance and reality in the book.

12. One critic has called The Joy Luck Club "intensely poetic." Isolate examples from the book to prove this assessment.

13. Trace the autobiographical influences on the novel. What did Tan take from her own life and use in the book? How did she change these elements? To what purpose did she use them?

14. The Joy Luck Club has been phenomenally successful, reaching the top of the bestseller list within months and garnering $1.2 million in paperback sales alone. Explain why the novel has been so well received by readers and critics alike.

15. Which daughter in the book do you think is most like Amy Tan? Why?

16. The novel has been called "rich in the bittersweet ambiguities of real life." Explain what the critic meant by this quote.

17. Add another ending to the novel. Describe what you think happens to each of the four daughters and the three remaining mothers after Jing-mei returns home from China.

18. Analyze the importance of food in the novel. What purpose does it fulfill? Which foods are most important and why?

19. Compare the Chinese and Chinese-American cultures that Tan describes in this book to your own culture. How are they the same? How are they different?

20. Explain how Tan uses symbolism in this book by analyzing at least three main symbols.