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Narrative Techniques in the Joy Luck Club

Author LiuQun
Tutor HuangJianRen
School Central South University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords Amy Tan The Joy Luck Club narrative time voice mood
Type Master's thesis
Year 2010
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With the success of The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan has become one of the representatives of Chinese American literature. She has drawn much attention from mainstream critics home and abroad.Many critics have done researches on the key factors for its success, such as the cultural conflict and integration, mysterious oriental elements, maternal love in the novel. However, this thesis analyzes different narrative techniques in The Joy Luck Club mainly by taking French literary theorist Gerard Genette’s narrative discourse theory as a major framework. Genette holds that narratology focuses on the possible relations between story and narrative text, narrating and narrative text, and story and narrating. Narrative discourse specifically examines the fields of time, voice and mood, and these three aspects and their artistic effects will be examined in detail in three chapters respectively.Chapter 1 discusses the function of narrative time in The Joy Luck Club. Arranging the narrative order according to the rules of mahjong is experimental. Besides this, constantly changing rhythm reflects conflict between two generations which symbolizes the cultural conflict. Chapter 2 illustrates different narrative voices in the novel. Based on American narratologist Susan S. Lanser’s feminist narratology, this chapter discusses how Amy Tan establishes a narrative authority in The Joy Luck Club by applying the authorial voice, the personal narrative voice and the communal voice synthetically. Chapter 3 examines narrative moods in The Joy Luck Club. Focalization and some symbolic images embody the Chinese Americans’ unique experiences in foreign countries. Rimmon-Kenan developed Genette’s way of distinguishing the focus types, so his theory will be applied in Section 1 to analyze the focalization in the novel. By using external focalization and internal focalization together, Amy Tan offers much more freedom to readers to illustrate the work. Some significant images such as mahjong, the Wind and the swan developing the theme of the novel are also discussed in this chapter.By exploring the narrative discourse, this thesis points out that by using these narrative strategies,Amy Tan shows us the conflict and communication between mothers and daughters. The success of The Joy Luck Club establishes Amy Tan’s status in Chinese American literature, and it is helpful for Chinese American literature becoming an important component of the main body of American literature. What’s more, Amy Tan represents the overseas Chinese people’s state of living in the 20th century, especially female overseas Chinese’s control over their destiny in a foreign land. All of these techniques add to the artistic charm of The Joy Luck Club. This novel reflects the then social reality both in China and America. To some degree, it dispels some American people’s prejudice against overseas Chinese.

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