The Joy Luck Club

At the beginning of the film, you will hear this fable: 

The old woman remembered a swan she had bought many years ago in Shanghai for a foolish sum. “This bird,” boasted the market vendor, “was once a duck that stretched its neck in hopes of becoming a goose, and now, look, it is too beautiful to eat.” 

Then the woman and the swan sailed across an ocean many thousands of li wide, stretching their necks toward America. On her journey, she cooed to the swan, “In America, I will have a daughter just like me, but over there nobody will say her worth is measured by the loudness of her husband’s belch. Over there, nobody will look down on her because I will make her speak perfect American English. And over there, she will always be too full to swallow any sorrow. She will know my meaning because I will give her this swan, a creature that became more than what was hoped for.” 

But when she arrived in the new country, the immigration officials pulled the swan away from her, leaving the woman fluttering her arms and with only one swan feather for a memory. For a long time now, the woman had wanted to give her daughter the single swan feather and tell her, “This feather may look worthless, but it comes from afar and carries with it all my good intentions.”

What does this mean? Why does the film begin with this fable?

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5 thoughts on “The Joy Luck Club

  1. It’s difficult…. i think the only swan feather is memory for the mother because She moved to other country with carrying her hope and dream towards her new life. And the swan is simbol of hope…. ?

  2. Maybe the swan represents the things that she couldn’t bring from her home country, and the feather is the only thing that she can pass to her daughter, her cultural heritage. I think the movie begins with this story as a way to symbolize the mothers trying to pass their culture to the daughters amid all the transformation they had to pass through to adapt to their new country.

  3. hmmm. probably the swan means things and ideas the mother wanted to have for herself and for her daughter when she moved form her country to the USA. but when she arrived in the U.S, the immigration officials pulled the swan away and only thing that left with her was a feather. i feel like it tells that a reality in the U.S for them is gonna be tough or difficult, not what she hopes or imagines.

  4. Swan is a symbolic start of the story, I think. Swan starts from a goose then turn into a beautiful swan later. The mother wanted her daughter to be successful even if she struggles to be a swan. We could see her strong determination to immigrant the U.S and raise her daughter when she grabbed only a feather. It is her everything; a hope she can survive in her new world.

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