Conflicts play a crucial role in novels and are seen in many different forms. Two of which are internal and external. An internal conflict is when a character must deal with private problems. An external conflict is when a character must deal with problems originating from another person or the public in general. These types of conflicts are visible within the novel entitled The Joy Luck Club written by Amy Tan. There are many prominent conflicts seen in The Joy Luck Club. Two of which I’ve chosen are between Waverly and Lindo, 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” (186). Waverly believes Lindo is attempting to influence her daughter for the worse. She doesn’t 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” (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” (186). Waverly protests, “He gave me this from his heart,” (186) to which Lindo replies, “That is why I worry” (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 worse. 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” (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 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” (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” (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…” (229). June struggles 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” (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” (233). She finally accepts herself as she is, ending her competition with Waverly once and for all.
In closing, the conflicts within this book deal with internal and external conflicts for each character. Two of the most visible conflicts are between Lindo and Waverly, and between June and Waverly. Each of the conflicts is resolved through some sort of compromise on one or both sides.