Conflicts play a crucial role in novels. Without conflict, novels would be uninteresting and very dull. Conflicts are seen in many different forms, as internal conflicts, when a character must deal with private problems, and external conflicts, when a character must deal with problems originating from an external source, like another person or society in general. Some common conflicts seen in other novels are person versus society, as in The Scarlet Letter when Hester is forced to face her mistake of adultery due to the obsession of the unforgiving town.
An example of an internal conflict is resent within Animal Dreams, when Cody must decide where she belongs and must also deal with the pain of her lost baby. These types of conflicts and more are visible within the novel entitled The Joy Luck Club written by Amy Tan. Three prominent conflicts seen in The Joy Luck Club are between Waverly and Lindo, Lindo and Suyuan, and between June and Waverly. The first prominent conflict within this novel deals with Waverly and her mother Lindo. Waverly feels as though her mother is attempting to ruin her life by causing her to “see black where there once was white” (Tan 186).
Lindo, Waverly believes, is attempting to influence her daughter for the worse. She does not want to be influenced by her mother’s opinions, her criticisms of everything that she loves, yet Waverly fears that even if she “recognized her sneak attack, [she] was afraid that some unseen speck of truth would fly into [her] eye, blur what [she] was seeing and transform [it]” (Tan 181) into the thing that her mother saw, into something full of faults, something that is not good enough for her. Waverly resents this, yet Lindo believes that it is for Waverly’s own good. She does not want
Waverly to accept something just because it was a gift, like the fur jacket that Rich gave Waverly. Lindo believes that she has taught Waverly to grow up with values, with goals that everyone and everything must meet. As Waverly shows Lindo the jacket, Lindo inspects it, finally reporting, “This is not so good” (Tan 186). Waverly protests, “He gave me this from his heart” (Tan 186), to which Lindo replies, “That is why I worry” (Tan 186). Lindo simply wants Waverly to strive for the best. Lindo believes that her daughter deserves the best, and nothing should influence her for the orse.
The conflict between mother and daughter is finally resolved after Waverly confronts her mother about the verbal abuse she has endured. Waverly realizes that her mother is only “an old woman… getting a little crabby as she waited patiently for her daughter to invite her in” (Tan 204). Waverly finally tells her mother about her life, especially about Rich, and they begin to get along better. Both must sacrifice a little pride to make the relationship work, but as they both do so, they grow closer and their relationship becomes stronger as a result.
The second prominent conflict visible within this novel is between Lindo and Suyuan. These two women are supposedly best friends, yet their constant bickering and competition, which their children deem as “normal”, seems to negate this fact. June, Suyuan’s daughter, seems to know the truth: “Auntie Lin and my mother were both best friends and arch enemies who spent a lifetime comparing their children” (Tan 27). Waverly also agrees with June’s observation of their mothers’ friendship, simply stated as such: “They were very close, which meant they were ceaselessly tormenting each other with boasts and secrets” (Tan 194).
Lindo and Suyuan spent most of their time comparing their cooking and their children, both believing that they were superior to the other. Suyuan and Lindo both believe that their own cooking skills greatly exceed the other’s. Lindo seems to be the best cook of the two of them, considering that she “learned to cook so well that [she] could smell if the meat stuffing was too salty before [she] even tasted it” (Tan 50). Also, as Lindo states to her daughter, “[Auntie Suyuan] can only cook looking at a recipe.
My instructions are in my fingers. I know what secret ingredients to put in just by using my nose! (Tan 195). Thus, Lindo still competes with Suyuan, even though the evidence proves that Lindo is the better cook. Lindo is also able to brag about her daughter Waverly, who wins trophies for playing chess, so many that “all day [she has] no time do nothing but dust off her winnings” (Tan 148), adding, “You lucky you don’t have this problem” (Tan 149) with a bit of a flourish. This infuriates Suyuan, who believes that the only way for her own daughter June to live up o Waverly is for Suyuan to discover some sort of hidden talent within her.
Suyuan tells June, “You can be prodigy, too… you can be best anything. What does Auntie Lindo know? Her daughter, she is only best tricky” (Tan 141). Suyuan strives to find something within June that can compare her to Waverly’s success, yet by pushing June to succeed, Suyuan actually causes her to want to fail, to not achieve as much as she could because she has been pushed against her will. The conflict between Lindo and Suyuan is never resolved. They continue to compete and argue throughout their lives.
Most likely, this competition gave them pleasure, something that they must dwell on and think of ways to overcome. This competition between the two mothers also carries over to the daughters, thus causing a new conflict to arise between them as well. The third important conflict within The Joy Luck Club deals with the competition between June and Waverly. Their conflict begins at birth, considering that they are only one month apart. Their mothers started the competition by comparing which baby was the smartest, strongest, prettiest, and so on.
They compare “the creases in [their] belly buttons, how shapely their] earlobes were, how fast [they] healed when [they] scraped [their] legs, how thick and dark [their] hair” (Tan 27). As the children grow, they follow their mothers’ examples and begin to compete on their own, especially Waverly. Once Waverly becomes famous from her chess playing, she begins to rub her success in June’s face. Waverly was never afraid to make June feel bad about herself, stating after a bad piano recital, “You aren’t a genius like me” (Tan 151).
June resents all that Waverly does to her, to make her lose confidence in herself. Even Waverly’s compliments are sneak attacks on June. The simplest statement could turn ugly in a second. For example, Waverly compliments her haircut at New Year’s, yet when she discovers that June still sees David, the gay man, she states, “He could have AIDS… you can’t be too safe these days…” (Tan 229). June writhes with anger, and finally, after many years of torment, she sees her opportunity to prove Waverly wrong, to show her that she also makes mistakes.
June states, “Maybe I could afford Mr. Rory’s prices if someone’s firm paid me on time” (Tan 230). However, this also backfires on June. Waverly is initially surprised and hurt, then she simply tells June that her copy writing was not what their firm was looking for. June is crushed again. She will never triumph over the genius which is Waverly. June finally realizes that she will never be as smart or as strong as Waverly. June knows that “[she is] good at what [she] did, succeeding at something small like that” (Tan 233). She finally accepts herself as she is, ending her competition with Waverly once and for all.
The conflicts within this book deal with internal and external conflicts or each character, but three of the most visible conflicts are between Lindo and Waverly, between Suyuan and Lindo, and between June and Waverly. Each of the conflicts are resolved through some sort of compromise on one or both sides, except for the conflict between Suyuan and Lindo, which is never resolved. One of the conflicts that I can relate to within this novel is between Waverly and Lindo. Waverly believes that her mother is out to ruin everything that she holds dear, while Lindo is just trying to make her see that she deserves better.
I relate to the essence of that conflict. I too look for flaws in people and situations, just as Lindo does for her daughter. Yet, I do it to sabotage my own happiness, as though I feel subconsciously as if I do not deserve to be happy. I would see flaws in people that I liked, or in my own work, thinking that I could do better each time with everything that came my way. I think that, because of this scrutiny that I put myself through, it has helped me to become a better student. I am able to see little details that require changing, that need to be improved.
Also, I have recently come to realize that I deserve to be happy, that I am a good person, that I deserve what everyone else seems to have: pride in themselves and in others. I am gradually learning to accept others for what they are and have stopped looking for flaws in people. I now let them be what they are. I have accepted myself, and now am able to accept them. This book has helped me to see what qualities I have inside of myself and how pointless it really is to be so scrutinizing of myself and of others.