Discrepancy of feminine images towards love and life by two films: Joy Luck Club & Eat, Love and Pray

Li Yating


A paper Submitted as a Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements

For the Degree of B.A. in English

Supervised by

School of Foreign Languages

Donghu College, Wuhan University

May, 2012

郑 重 声 明



日 期:






The movie “Eat, love and pray” is adapted from its original novel, which talks about the journey of soul-exploration and self-discovery of a woman of thirty years old. After having failed in her first marriage, she brought her limited savings and a big packet, started her lonely trip with an almost broken heart. She enjoyed delicious food in Italy, simplified her bored minds in India and returned to Bali Island to regain the enlightenment of self-salvation. The author Elizabeth Gilbert used the first narration to educate each reader who has faced the same affection confusions, and positively guided readers to explore such philosophy questions as what really we want, who really we are and how we should face unexpected possibilities into deep reflections. So those get into the exploration of the life significance of a woman between love and life.

The movie “joy luck club” is adapted from American-Chinese writer Amy Tan’s first well-known novel. This novel described the life sufferings of four Chinese women who immigrated to America from China mainland in the middle of 20th century. And it also stated about the psychological crash between two generations of 8 women in two generations. During dating back to the whole incident, the director makes the advantage of flashback to lead us to know that women are oppressed by spiritual bondage while they liberate themselves through self-conflict. We could easily find the stubborn side of women characteristic, like showing off what they have and forcing way to win in many aspects. But seldom have they thought about what life they have lived for, they could treat earthly affairs through incomparable intelligence, but a painful way to treat themselves. Or we could say they themselves are poor in their self-worlds. Then they started an agreement to look for changes and similarities to have in common. In the movie joy luck club, the screen has enlarged to some degree their experiences and the conflicts between two generations of mothers, and daughters are set in dominant a situation, which helps represent the dramatic effects, accompanying with several emotional differences, presents extraordinary cultural meanings and extension of art.

Key words: women status, self-discovery, spiritual salvation


1. Introduction: Background information. ..................................................................... 1

1.1 Eat, Love and Pray ............................................................................................ 1

1.1.1 Character of Elizabeth (Liz) .................................................................... 3

1.2 Joy Luck Club ................................................................................................... 3

1.2.1 Character of four women: Suyun, Linduo, Yingying and Anmei. .......... 5

2. Exploration of woman selfhood ................................................................................. 6

2.1 Eat, love and pray: Journey of a woman’s growing up of her heart by her

exploration of her true self ...................................................................................... 6

2.2Joy luck club: The development of the women’s inner world through

changeable environments and events ...................................................................... 7

3. Similarity and difference concluded by these two examples accordingly ................. 9

3.1. Similarity: ........................................................................................................ 9

3.1.1 Emotion: self-awareness: from ignorance to comprehension ................. 9

3.1.2 Figure of speech: use of metaphor and symbol .................................... 10

3.2 Difference cultural backgrounds ..................................................................... 10

3.2.1 Cultural backgrounds ............................................................................ 10

3.2.2 Women images ...................................................................................... 11

4. Conclusion ............................................................................................................... 12

Works Cited .................................................................................................................. 13

1. Introduction

1.1 Introduction to Eat, Love and Pray

The story happens to be a journey of a woman’s own soul-exploration and self-discovery by traveling among three foreign countries. That is, to enjoy a feast of delicious food in Italy, to learn the depth of one’s mind quietly in India and to find the true self of one’s own in Bali.

At the beginning, the narrator, or we can say the writer herself came to Bali to pay a visit to a very old man, a psychic, who is a master of emotional healer. Who is well-known for his helping one’s growth? The heroine, named Liz come to seek for help, the old man told her that she would have two marriages, one was short while another was lifelong and gave her a picture to tell her to see this world through heart rather than eyes, to stand firmly on the ground with four legs and predicted Liz would come back to Bali to help him learn English one year later, she might loss all her money when her first marriage was broken up, and she would turn for help from him, after her coming back, the old man would teach her some life principles and she could finally realize what she really wants and who she wants to be.

One year later, perhaps most ones have forgotten such things; Liz still goes for what she loves to do—a professional writer for travel magazines. She has intended a wonderful travel when his husband had made his decision to live a stable life as a teacher, at that night, she was frightened without reason, she didn’t know why, and maybe she just felt the present life was not supposed to be, at least not as what she expected to. At such a sleepless night, she couldn’t fall asleep. Then she decided to do something to comfort her heart. She tried to pray, an action she never did before. And the first words she said after all was,” hello, god..” after she went to bed again, she had got her own answer, a brave decision to give up all the things she had, she clearly understood that even at her thirty’s, she didn’t want to be a mother, and didn’t want to have a husband as well.

A few years ago, she made up her mind to attempt to be a good wife and learnt to enjoy a normal marriage life. Without doubt, her first husband was pissed off. As the old man predicted, in order to end up this relationship, she would rather sacrifice 1

all she had to get freedom. By the way, her lost money had all come back; if it could be described as a way to revenge or to hold her in a dying relationship, what her husband did was some sorts of miserable deeds. Especially, at the end of a relationship, the brave one who could let everything go is the one who undertakes so much love, at least lots of being loved. And the other who is being “abandoned” still struggles to recover until the last moment lovers become enemies. Then, Liz met another handsome guy in the theatre, after a few days of happiness, all the processes a couple had to experience just acted again, and she felt fed up with the bondage of love someone or being loved at burdens. She broke off another relationship, bought a ticket, flew to a foreign country—Italy.

During those days in this totally different country, she met some good friends, learnt a few Italian words, tasted a lot of delicious Italian food, rather than care about keeping a charming body shape for attracting the opposite sex. She started to learn how to please herself, to meet her own needs and to live the real way she wants. From Italian travel, she suddenly realized that even one is heart-broken the world still runs in its way, tasty food is always ready to provide to guests.

Subsequently, she went to India, to search for truth. It’s evident that the surroundings there was unbearable, she could not focus herself on one point at the beginning, even questioned why she made such a mistake to think of finding something real by exploring its original place. And in that city, she met another friend who shared his complex experiences with her and encouraged her to face reality with courage and faith. Just like, if you missed someone, your excuse told you could not to pursue the things you know which had no happy endings. Just missed it, a placid of mind would help you face everything naturally. If you felt sorry for someone, just said I was really sorry, escape was not a solution to the problems.”

Only one year later, she came back to Bali, and tried to better understand that promise. The pity is that, the old man could not recognize her, and until she presented the picture he gave her a year ago. The old man kept his promise to teach her all he knew, so Liz acted as his private assistant and lived a free life in this isolated island with beautiful scenery and local characteristics. At this moment, she 2

met the guy who would accompany her during the rest of her life. They both had a good time with each other. But for Liz, the uncertain was a kind of perseverance in love. As every damaged soul knew the pains, like the painful memory could not be wiped out when a finger was cut off. She just didn’t know how to love again, or to accept a new relationship. After fully understanding of the meaning of love and life, she finally got her own way to face her life honestly and figured out that, there never has a prince to save her life, except herself to take complete control of her own life.

1.1.1 Character of Elizabeth (Liz)

Speaking of the main character Elizabeth, I have to say she is a representative of new woman image of our age, or we could just interpret her as a common figure to express what our final destination is toward love, Her pursuit of love is a journey of her own accomplishment. She is self-determined, courageous and open-minded. Her first two love affairs both nearly broke her hearts, she learnt a lot from her two former lovers. Helpless and desperate, she needs a salvation, finally she, finds her own strength to love, and totally grasp the secret of love and beloved.

1.2 Joy Luck Club

This movie is adapted from a very popular novel joy luck club by American-Chinese writer Amy Tan, who is an American born Chinese, she uses her unique perspective to describe differences of culture shock reflected by two generations.

Joy luck club is a club gathers four women who all go to church now and then and have suffered from the similar past. These four women come together to play a traditional Chinese entertainment game—Mahjong. They wish to have good luck, not only in the game, but also offer great expectation to their life and their daughters’ future.

They pour out their aspirations with each other; even they have already lived in the other shore for quite a long period. As time goes by, they become older enough not be able to struggle against their fate any more, those past memories still haunt in their hearts. They sincerely hope that their stories could be passed down from generation to generation, all happened in that ancient country, their homeland, a 3

place where their souls lay peacefully. Here, begins the story.

There are four women characters:

Suyun is the main creator of joy luck club, who was the wife of a General of Nationalist Party. In war time of the middle of 20th century, the whole country was in a terrible disorder. Suyun had to taken her twin daughters to look for her husband who was appointed in another province, it was hard to imagine a helpless woman to get to the furthest destination by walking. Powerless and incapable of actions, she had to give up her children, left all her belongings to a kind person to take care of her daughters. Then she fell unconsciously, but luckily being saved and across the ocean to begin a new life. After that, she still missed her lost babies and kept looking for them secretly, she has shifted all her hopes and expectations to her daughter who is born in America. Of course, generation gaps and totally different cultural living backgrounds engender so man misunderstandings between these two generations. it was until her death that her daughter, named Jun who was born in American began to check afresh her close relation with her mother.

Linduo, another woman, who has been sold and been promised to be married at 15 by her mother at very early age. On the day of her become 15 years old, all her family moved to southern part except her, because her mother had to keep her promise to woman matchmaker. In old times, to be married to a person in a good family is a blessing for a girl, especially for those who come from poor class origin. Even though, Linduo, a woman of strong will and determination has sworn to herself that she would never let her fate being mastered by others. After suffering from so much misery, she successfully escaped from such unhappy marriage and got a ticket to shanghai while she still kept her promise to her mother. Hence, in her mind, the image of a mother in her daughter’s heart is more or less of great importance. She has set strict demand for her daughter, Waverly, who was looking for a way to get along well with her mother, as she said, the pressure of her mother’s strong policy made her feel uncomfortable. At last, their ice has been melted.

Yingying, who married a playboy at very young age in China, being almost crazy, she mistakenly have her own baby drown in bathing. From then on, she 4

became lost in deep desperation frequently, even after her emigration to America many years later. She remarried. As she said, due to her own losing of faith and courage, she can give nothing to her daughter, Lena. Who has no spirit equally, a timid and fragile girl? Finally, both daughter and mother picked up their courage and confidence to face new challenge and new life.

Anmei, when she was a little girl, she was cultivated by her grandmother. Her mother was a woman who betrayed her died husband and had been kicked out of family, because she chose to be sweetheart of a married man who has had three wives already. Her impression with her mother was vague and unclear, until the day when her grandmother was severely sick. Her mother came back and sacrificed her blood to feed her mother who was in serious disease. Although her grandmother died ultimately, her mother’s action proved that only the most filial child could show her/his love and devotion in such a way. She finally went away with her mother to live with her mother in a new place, and knew the truth that her mother did not intend to be the fourth wife of a married man in ancient society. She had been raped by that man, and no one believed her words, without any place to reside. She had to accept her fate and expected someday to meet her only beloved daughter Anmei. Then, her mother suicided and educated her child that woman should know her worth, even her mother chose such a fierce approach to against her life. on that day, Anmei began to shout, subsequently she told her daughter, Rose, to know her own value in a relationship better than losing herself by begging love from a man. Rose managed to repair her marriage by self-discovery.

From this novel, the writer gives a hint to state the fact that woman is a relatively weak group in society, in a world of old concepts that describes:” man is superior to woman.” Woman is just like attachments to man, even in modern age, unfair salary distributions continue to be an indistinct problem. The entire film is full of culture shock and diversified concepts.

1.2.1 Character of four women: Suyun, Linduo, Yingying and Anmei.

A woman who has stories makes her fascinating. There is no doubt that all four characters are interesting and meaningful. And their stories are thought-provoking. 5

As has been mentioned above, there are still some key-words to simplify their peculiarities.

Suyun: a woman of solid character, unexplainable pains for her cant not but give up responsibilities of being a mother.

Linduo: a woman of strong will, tough、firm and refuses to yield to any powers.Yingying: weak in affections, timid to losing originally, but consequently learns lessons by her weakness points of personalities, and becomes strong enough.

Anmei: quiet, taciturn and reserved when she has nothing knowing of her own mother, from her own personal experience, she understands later on her own mission as an independent individual.

2. Exploration of woman selfhood

2.1 Eat, love and pray: a woman’s growing up by her exploration of her inner heart

As any woman who is permanently in pursuit of pure love, the writer doesn’t know what she really wants at first; we all seem to be pushed by time, willingly or unwillingly. We are in the process of growing up.

I mean, when we are in the age of early twenties, we want to date more guys, and show our personal glamour or just to prove our beauty through numbers of various chasers. Then, When we are becoming mature, marriage becomes some kind of essential required course for everyone, but we don’t look like understanding the holy meaning of organizing a new family, a unit totally consisting of different individuals. We have the concept of having a happy ending, a fairy tale of perfect love, while in reality, trivial matters have occupied our daily life. We are confused and guess whether it is the nature of life, what if I’m not myself again, what if I loss all the present things I have? What if I dare to go after another kind of new life? So many questions have been put in our head, as the heroine, Liz, when she is at her 30s, she is a travel-lover, and she has intended to be a good wife, to learn how to be at least when she get married. But as time goes by, when her husband decided to live a stable life, to be a school teacher and treat it as his life career during the rest of his life, Liz was thrown in panic, because she doesn’t want to be trapped this way, in her 6

secret box, there is no room for baby stuffs, instead, lots of maps of different countries that she would like to take a step. To continue to pretend to submit to routine life or to try to release this bondage makes her in the dilemma. She has an attempt to pray to God for help, it obviously doesn’t work. Without wonder, she chooses to follow her own heart, step on a strange continent and find her own salvation.

Through nearly a whole year’s self-discovery, after having tasted delicious delicacy, meditated quietly and seen beautiful sceneries, she gets to know that food, drink and fine view never disappear, and it’s our right to enjoy them. There is no god, no Jesus Christ, but only ourselves to find our way of living a better life, with placid mood. In love, hurting is always existing, like a coin has two sides, if you pick up to love or to be loved, you have to undertake sadness and miseries brought about all the side effects to your sense of love. You should have to be brave, courageous and hope for good things to happen even if your situation is at your disadvantage, and to cherish every moment you have in your life and not to escape. That should be the way you approach to love. As once there is a saying, which could be translated as when a man loves you, he would insist on the last moment, he would take a travel with you, you could see the whole world through only one person rather than give up the world you have had. There is pain. That helps making your life complete. Being yourself is what your beauty is and never lose your faith and boldness next time. The mature of one’s mentality contributes to one’s tolerance of accepting everything.

2.2Joy luck club: The development of the women’s inner world in changeable environments

We can analyze this film by two parts through two generations of 8 women.

The old generation, Suyun, her lost twin babies became ghosts haunting her heart all her lifetime until her death. She is suffering from blaming herself not qualifying for a responsible mother, because how can a mother give up her own children. However, her situation is special, for one thing, she had no choice of making sure at that time whether she herself could survive, for another, and she wants her babies to be well taken care of. After immigrating to America, although 7

almost having lost all the information about her babies, she is trying her best to look for them. Then she remarried and had the third daughter, Jun is completely educated to be independence, freedom and self-centered. Suyun has put all her best wishes on her daughter. Her unyielding manner to force Jun to practice playing the piano, because for a mother’s part, her daughter will not only be well-cultivated like other white American girls who could speak fluent English, and she could also play the piano elegantly as a lady. From a traditional view, a girl, who can play a musical instrument well, is a symbol of fair lady. As she said before, all she had on her daughter is hope, never of disappointment. For having getting through so much, she is strong enough.

Lindo, a woman of firm spirit and full of skillful wisdom, on the matter of her doomed unhappy arranged marriage, she could not refuse this decision made by her traditional mother, but she has her own tricky way to deal with her fate, even in an audacious way. There is no denying admitting the fact that she is a lady of vanity. As she is in praise of her chess champion daughter for being a celebrity in the front page of a magazine. She is careful scheming of everything she has involved with. Only those who have suffered a lot can understand the rule of living game.

Yingying, a beautiful delicate lady in her early youth, but she met a bad man who has no sense of responsibility. Such gloomy experiences darkened her entire life, though she later moved to America and started a new life. Her fully understanding of what she wants is on the basis of her dignity and being cared by heart. She teaches her daughter Lena to break up with her now selfish husband and bravely looks for new one who is more suitable to enter her world. Lena got the perfect soul mate at last, and Yingying recovers from her past painful memory gradually.

Anmei, has experienced losing her mother at very young age, but her mother’s death enlightens her life to know that never submit to fate in a Chinese traditional manner, instead, woman has to know her own worth. Although she teaches her daughter, Rose, in opposite methods. However, as the birthmark curved in her blood cells, her daughter plays the same ways as other traditional Chinese women, to bear, and obey their husbands’ demands rather than asking themselves whether the choice 8

they choose to make is advantage to them. For example, Rose once decides not to change for her husband and holds her newly established family unchangeable. Nothing, nothing could change her. Nevertheless, her caring about losing lies in the love of her spouse conversely turns into the trap which stumbles herself. She refuses to accept a great opportunity by taking up advanced studies, she does all this even without asking herself why. For the sake of family factors, she shows her love by sending surprising love presents from time to time even without asking if he needs or not. She does all these by heart, even without reward. She thinks this is the way to express love, but communication has been blocked for a long time. Subsequently, she gets complete comprehension of her own minds, with the help of her mother’s reminding of her grandmother’s lessons. She saves her marriage and learns more than that.

3. Similarities and differences in women’s characters between the two movies

3.1. Similarity:

3.1.1 self-awareness: from ignorance to comprehension

In the movie “eat, love and pray.” Liz doesn’t know what to do at the beginning, and she is totally afraid of losing everything she has at present. At the age of 20, we are bold to try new things and meet great challenges, but as time goes by, ten years later, when we become 30s, we do not dare to undertake any risks any more. To have a warm family, a tender husband or a lovely child, seems to be every woman’s dream--- a cozy life like that.

However, it’s also the most puzzling time for a woman to understand her real necessity. She is confused with her next step. To go on her traveling plan to realize her dream of going around favorite places or to make up her mind to deal with family stuffs as the ordinary woman does. Her courage to give up the things she has had brings her to a new life. And she finally gets to know what she wants.

In the meanwhile, in the movie joy luck club, the four characters of old generations have suffered from hard times, if I may use the words like” your wound is your gold”. All of their self-awareness is based on sufferings. Lessons teach them to the rules under the surface of an incident. They are all searching for 9

self-exploration, setting goals for future and balancing their lives for some geeky unbalances.

We are tending to be smart and comprehend worldly wisdoms after passing the tunnel named ignorance. And that’s the way to grow up and become mature.

3.1.2 Figure of speech: use of metaphor and symbol

In the movie Eat, love and pray, the girly box under the bed means two kinds of women; one is that who gives high expectations to marriage and families. While another kind is that who holds her dreams first and doesn’t want to be bandaged or lock wedded earlier by marriage when she has her career to pursue.

In movie, at the beginning of the movie Joy luck club, the white swan appears several times to express something valuable, that is, the great expectations the old generations have on their next generations. Although those mothers themselves come from a relatively poor and in advanced country at that time, but their offspring could have enjoyed the equal rights and better qualities of life in this new continent. For one thing, they all speak fluent English, for another, they have both spirit of freedom of this country and faith of good characteristics of their old motherland.

3.2 Differences in cultural backgrounds

3.2.1 Cultural backgrounds

The movie “Eat, love and pray” happens to that, in the western world, love and emotion is necessary and important to human needs. Western women also play an equal role in a relationship. Their traditions are not obedience, but to follow their hearts to enjoy happiness to the maximum. They are more free to go for their wants owing to lack of tradition cultivations.

Whereas in the movie “joy luck club”, the new generations are all raised in the fashion style of American way, their traditional features were born in their bones. Almost their daughters have difficulties in dealing with emotions. Such as Lana’s coward of losing what she has had at present, even though she knows her unfair treatment by her selfish husband. Rose’s obedience and seemingly unselfish way of love to her handsome husband, but she even doesn’t realize that she has lost herself, and pretends to maintain a relationship by giving birth a new life, At last, her 10

marriage is on the verge of being broken up. Culture determines what we are, and sometimes who we are. It’s like a birthmark. That seldom one can escape from this circle.

3.2.2 Women images

“Eat, love and pray.” The writer of the movie is a woman of independent economic status, a modern woman who has right to enjoy both work and love. She has no traditional past bondages or other personal sufferings to bear, as she says, love is the ultimate target to get to. She is a writer, fragile to touch the most sensitive part of people’s nerves, to undergo emotional experiences, to state the inner words of everybody’s heart, to translate the feeling from love to hate, and the process of self-growth. In western world, Women are a group of self-finding species, as the movement of feminists going up, individualism is gradually put emphasis on. That’s why her confusion of losing herself could be a big problem, which is worth going overseas to get a solution to find her true self again at all costs.

Though the background of the movie “Joy luck club’s in the USA, the story relates to the past that happened in old China and its influences upon these women. They have been educated in traditional Chinese way, contrary to their daughters cultivated in American way; the obvious conflict between these two generations is inevitably. The mothers’ forcing ways to order their daughters to meet their demands. For examples, Lindo and Suyun. The mother’s timid or tender way to against fate such as Yinging and Anmei. Whereas, being born in a freedom country, with open mind of accepting new concepts rather than being restrained by old traditions is the focus of their differences. That’s why these new groups can not understand their mothers’ care and great expectations very well. They are more closing to Liz’s type, to be themselves rather than the one they are supposed to be. I don’t know why those “fierce and tough” figures remind me of Wangxifeng in the red mansion’s stone, as an old saying goes, maybe to describe that women are made of water, to mean women’s tenderness and flexibility. We can interpret that’s the nature of women. But as a matter of fact, more and more women are forced by reality to become rather “manly” in order to protect themselves. But both combination of tenderness and 11

toughness are great and adaptable in woman.

4. Conclusion

All in all, these two films give an impression to us that female’s growth in self-development will provoke us in thinking deeply about questions as “what we really want,” and “who we really are.” It is important for us to have an clear recognition of self-requirements so that we can step further one more time. Hence, I will make a final statement about these two films. As to Eat, love and pray, we could say that life is a journey; we could have met large quantities of obstacles on the way to our ending lines. As a minority of social groups, females have no choice but to follow a lot of rules. But we could ignore something that is related to our development. Imagine for a while, what’s your dream when you are at a very young age. After going through so much emotional sufferings, what has left in your dream lists? Or whatever becomes more naturalistic or realistic? That is, our fates are doomed, individuals are so small to against outside forces, we find our social positions exactly, when we are near thirty years old, to be married a suitable husband, marriage is irrelevant with love to some extent. We have to marry for marriage’s sake. Because we need families just like what others do. So when someone jumps out to declare her independence or fresh idea of abandoning normal choices but to pursue her own ideals as usual, she is brave enough as well confused. She gets her own happiness until finally she completely gets a full comprehension of her own self-value. As for the movie joy luck club, it’s a bit complicated to state about the female’s status, because the background is a mixture of differences in different cultures. The conflicts between two worlds, that is, the western world full of open concepts and conservative attitudes of Chinese culture. There is no criterion to judge which culture is better, but an adaption for these immigrations to immerse into two diversified atmospheres. Contradictory educations and conception assortments have played great jokes on them. At last, a compromise has been achieved, and those women have experienced much in changeable environments. In a word, the progress of female movement and freedom phenomenon is obvious. And the analysis through these two films is not adequate, but at least an evidence to prove.


Works Cited Movie &Book, 〈Eat, Love and Pray〉 Elizabeth Gilbert Movie & Book, 〈Joy Luck Club〉 Amy Tan


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