The Joy Luck Club | Study Guide

Amy Tan

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The Joy Luck Club | Part 2, Prologue : The Twenty-Six Malignant Gates | Summary



The parable introducing the second part of The Joy Luck Club is about a little girl whose mother warns her not to ride her bike around the corner. If she does, her mother says, she will fall and get hurt. It says as much in the Chinese book called The Twenty-Six Malignant Gates, which details "all the bad things that can happen" to the girl when she leaves the house. The little girl defies her mother, jumps on her bike, and pedals away furiously. She falls before she reaches the corner, fulfilling her mother's prediction.


"The Twenty-Six Malignant Gates" addresses the natural discord within mother-daughter relationships. The mother insists she knows best for her daughter, but the headstrong daughter wants to make her own decisions. This relates to each of the mother-daughter relationships depicted in The Joy Luck Club. Suyuan and Lindo want Jing-mei and Waverly to make the most of their abilities; An-mei wants Rose to stand up for herself; and Ying-ying wants Lena to acknowledge her own tiger spirit. Like the little girl in the parable, none of the daughters are willing to listen to their mother's advice, and they suffer the consequences. The parable itself ends with the little girl falling off her bike. It isn't known if she listens to her mother after that. But each of the daughters in The Joy Luck Club are more willing to listen to their mother's advice after they experience failure for themselves. The moral of "The Twenty-Six Malignant Gates" is twofold: mother may always know best, but some lessons must be learned on one's own.

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