In what way is a daughter the “American Translation” of her mother? Choose a mother/ daughter pair and discuss.


“What a mother sings to the cradle goes all the way down to the coffin” (Henry Ward Beecher). This is the extent of a mothers’ influence to their children’s lives. The relationship between mother and child is a strong bond for not only humans but for all creatures; from the crawling spider to the soaring eagle. No matter what the circumstances are the mother is bound to influence the child’s life. Even if they have different origins and even if they have different cultures a child will not stray far from their parents’ lives. In the book Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, Lena St. Clair a Chinese American daughter is portrayed as the American translation of Ying-Ying a Chinese immigrant mother. Ying-Ying has unintentionally passed down her traits into her daughter’s life and Lena has inherited her mother’s passive personality, and her belief in superstition.

Ying-Ying who was born in a rich family once had an out going and cheerful personality. However it did not take long for her to change into what she is portrayed as in the book. Ying-Ying was told by her Amah and her mother that a woman should not be out going, but passive and quiet. “A boy can run and chase dragon flies...but a girl should stand still...”(70). At a young age Ying-Ying began to live passively without expressing her opinions or feelings to those around her. Even as a sixteen year old, when her family insisted that she marry a vulgar old man around the age of her own father, she did not express her disappointment or any sadness. She was so passive about her inner feelings that she somehow persuaded herself to love this vulgar old man. Her husband was unfaithful to Ying-Ying, but she did not express her hatred towards him, but kept it in herself, and this lead to the abortion of the baby which she had been carrying. Many years later she marries Clifford, Lena’s father, even from him she keeps many secrets and only listens. Years after their marriage Ying-Ying tells Clifford of her past, but even then she is still passive.

Lena like her mother has a very similar personality. Perhaps from the influence of her mothers actions, Lena also grew up as a passive and meek woman. However unlike Ying- Ying, there are moments when she realizes that being passive does not help the family at all. When Lena was young, she heard her neighbors an Italian mother and her daughter constantly fight and scream. “You break your legs sliding down that banister, I’m gonna break your neck” (114). At first she thought this meant they hated each other, but she soon figured out that this was a way of expressing love and care. Lena learned that at times expressing oneself is necessary for the well being of the family, even if you are screaming and fighting. However during her marriage life with Harold, Lena has found it difficult to express her opinion of many family choices. Lena believed that keeping separate bank accounts would not help their relationship but further ruin in, however she could not bring herself to express her inner thoughts. However, the new generation will always surpass the old, Lena remembering the incident with her neighbors realizes that she must express herself to fix her marriage. Although Lena has inherited her mother’s passive personality, she has overcome it to some extent.

Ying-Ying is also a strong believer in fate and other supersitious things. From a very young age Ying-Ying believed in fate, and this is one of the reasons why she married her first spouse. She believed that it was her fate that she would marry this man, and therefore did nothing to oppose it. She strongly believes that fate cannot be altered and thus lives on passively without expressing herself to the world. Even when she met Clifford she believed that their marriage was already destined. Thus keeping many secrets from him to marry him; she kept the fact that she raised in a rich family, and that his gifts were nothing compared to her past so that her destiny of marrying Clifford be completed. Not only this, but she also believed she could see the future (to some extent). She foresaw that her daughter’s marriage will have problems, and although she saw that problems will come forth, she did nothing to stop them. Also she often told Lena of her ability and to a certain extent Lena believed in her mother’s mysterious ability. “‘Aii, Lena,” she said after that dinner so many years ago, “your future husband have one pock mark for every rice you not finish”’ (164).

Lena is also a very strong believe of fate and destiny. She truly believed that fate has sealed Harold and her together and that she could not do anything about it. That is why when problems came up she did not face them, because she believed that she couldn’t alter her own destiny. Lena also believes in her mother’s ability to see the future, she takes into account many of her mother’s advices towards the end. Lena unlike her mother is able to resolve many of her problems because she is slightly different from her mother, and because she is so similar to Ying-Ying, it is easy for Ying-Ying to aid her in her troubles.

The mother and daughter pair have indisputable similarities with one another. The two both share a strong belief in superstition and are both very passive. Like it or not, a parent will influence a child’s life to a great extent, and as seen in Joy Luck Club the child’s life is often similar to the parent’s own life. Thus Lena is clearly an American translation of Ying-Ying, in many ways. Perhaps, because they were so similar, Ying-Ying was able to “see” Lena’s future and help her with her problems. This is why no matter how similar a parent and child are, the new generation will always overcome the previous generation.

Jeffrey Ahn :)
I think you did a great job in your essay! The effort is clear and there are many good examples which you clearly supported with evidence and examples. Each quote was used correctly and there wasn't too many and too little. Some of your writing has unnecessary words that could be fixed and their are minor grammar mistakes. Some of the sentences can also be improved in sentence fluency.

Eddy Choi

Hey Jae Doh. I think you chose a great pair to write the essay on. You have great supporting details also with great quotes. The essay not only proves that you are an organized writer but also that you are an in depth writer. You can analyze what the quotes mean to make your essay better. Great thesis, good conclusion. I like that you organized your paragraphs, one character to another and then comparing both in the next one.