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SUBJECTS — U.S./1945 - 1991, Diversity & California; World/China;
SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING — Mother/Daughter; Surviving;
Age: 14+; MPAA Rating -- R for strong depiction of thematic material; Drama; 1993; 136 minutes; Color. Available from Amazon.com.

Description: This movie is based on Amy Tan's bestselling novel describing the experiences of four women who emigrated from China to the United States. Each woman's story contains horrendous experiences in China and shows how those experiences affected their relationships with their American born daughters as well as the difficulty immigrants face as they seek to assimilate into a new culture.

Rationale for Using the Movie: The Joy Luck Club illustrates elements of the culture and history of China in the early 20th century, focusing on the mistreatment of women. As an adaptation from a novel that is widely read in schools, it offers students a look at techniques employed by screen writers as they seek to translate print into visual media. It also explores the relationships that Asian-American women have with their mothers and relationships between girls and their mothers generally.

Objectives/Student Outcomes Using this Learning Guide: Through research and writing assignments, students will gain insight into culture conflict, acculturation, assimilation and the problems faced by second generation citizens as they struggle to balance the old social order, represented by their parents, with the new social order in which they are immersed.

Possible Problems: Serious. In one sequence, a male baby is drowned by his mother in warm bath water. This sequence shows no graphic violence to the child but it is nonetheless disturbing. In another scene, a mother, thinking that she was going to die, abandons her twin children by the road side in the hope that someone would find and care for them.



Rationale and Objectives
Possible Problems
Parenting Points

Using the Movie in Class:
      Introduction to the Movie
      Discussion Questions


Helpful Background

Additional Discussion Questions:
      Subjects (Curriculum Topics)
      Social-Emotional Learning
      Moral-Ethical Emphasis
            (Character Counts)

Additional Assignments

Other Sections:
      Bridges to Reading
      Links to the Internet
      Selected Awards & Cast

MOVIE WORKSHEETS: TWM offers the following movie worksheets to keep students' minds on the film and to focus their attention on the lessons to be learned from the movie. Teachers can modify the movie worksheets to fit the needs of each class. See also TWM's Movies as Literature Homework Project.


Introduction to the Movie: XXXX.


Discussion Questions:

After the film has been watched, engage the class in a discussion about the movie.

1.  Identify a significant difference between the mothers, who were born and lived in China, and their American born daughters? Suggested Response: There is no one correct answer to this question. Some students may feel that the since American born daughters did not suffer as their mothers did, they are free from trauma. Others may suggest that the daughters feel equal to and independent of the men in their lives. In contrast to the immigrant mothers, the daughters feel capable of changing their situations in life.

2.  Which of the Mother/Daughter combinations had the best relationship? Which had the worst? Suggested Response: Answers will vary. Any well argued view is acceptable.

3.  Which of the mothers whose stories are told in the films do you feel adapted best to the new country in which she found herself and how did her ability to adapt affect her daughter? Suggested Response: Answers will vary. Students should refer to scenes and events in order to back up their opinions, each of which is acceptable to the degree that it is well supported.

For additional discussion questions, click here.


Any of the discussion questions can serve as a writing prompt. Additional assignments include:

1. Research and prepare a power point presentation for your classmates one of the following topics:
  • Cultural practices of infanticide;
  • The rise and fall of the Manchu Dynasty;
  • Define assimilation as the term applies to immigrants to the U.S. and analyze whether or not assimilation of immigrants into the larger society is a core value of U.S. culture;
  • The Opium War of 1839-1843;
  • The status of women in today's society, in both China and the U.S.;
  • The issues at play in relationships between mothers and daughters in modern American society.
2. Regardless of whether you are a son or a daughter, write a narrative essay in which you describe the kinds of issues that either you or someone you know faces in maintaining an amicable relationship with their mother.

3. Write an opinion essay on the topic of The Joy Luck Club as a "chick flick." Argue carefully about whether or not you think the film is of value in terms of interest, ideas and themes to male viewers.

For additional assignments, click here.




Select questions that are appropriate for your students.

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Parenting Points: The novel from which this film has been adapted is often read by middle and high school students and the film should not be used as a substitute for the book. Should your child see the film without reading the book, you may suggest that he or she read the book. There are usually interesting situations, characters and even themes that are contained in the novel but which are excluded from a film adaptation. If you have both seen the movie and read the book, you may want to engage in a discussion of the differences.

Reminder to Teachers: Obtain all required permissions from your school administration before showing any film.

Teachers who want parental permission to show this movie can use TWM's Movie Permission Slip.





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