relationship between the community and the individual

Book: Joy Luck Club Tan, Amy. The Joy Luck Club. 1989. NY: Penguin, 2006. Print. ISBN-10: 014303809, ISBN-13: 978-0143038092

Then write a 1 page literary analysis in which you interpret the relationship between the community and the individual.

Starting Questions

Answering the following will help you interpret the text you have chosen and start moving toward an interpretation.

First, let’s consider the community represented in the novel:

o How is the community represented in the novel responsible for its members? What duties does it have? What falls outside its purview? What duties does it fulfill? What duties does it fail to fulfill?

o What type of community is represented in the novel?  Is it a multicultural community? Is it a community comprised mainly of people from a particular cultural, ethnic, or socio-economic background? Does the make-up of the community affect its responsibilities? 

o How is the community represented? Do we see the community mainly as individuals forming a collective or as a collective that includes individuals? How does the community disseminate information in this text? 

Now, let’s turn to the individual or individuals you are looking at in your essay. I suggest you choose one or two individuals to consider. More than that is not doable in depth in a 5-page essay:

o For which individuals does this society fail to care? For which individuals does it care? Why do you think it functions that way? 

o Are some individuals more easily victimized in this text? What makes them easier to victimize? 

o Are any individuals able to escape the system in which they find themselves? What agency and ability to act and influence their circumstances does the individual have in this novel?

o Also consider how gender plays into how this
individual interacts with his or her culture and community. Does societal responsibility read differently for men and women?

Now, let’s look at the nuts and bolts of not only what story is told but how that story is told:

o Who is the narrator? Is he or she a part of the community? To what extent is he or she also responsible for the failure of the community? 

o How does the narrator portray culture and community in the story. What descriptive strategies are used? How does the reader find out information (e.g., directly, indirectly, through implication, through hearing it talked about, through watching action…)? What affect does this have on the story and its meaning?

o Consider the setting. How important is time and place in this novel? What does this add?

o Also, consider when the novel was published and its cultural context. 


You will need to write a dynamic thesis to direct your essay. Early on, you may not know what exactly you are arguing, so begin with a guiding question. The prompt will help you craft this. As you do research by reviewing the novel and potentially doing outside research,

Close Reading

Close reading is the bread and butter of literary studies. What it means is a type of textual analysis in which the writer looks in depth at a small portion of text to prove an overall point. To do a good close reading, pay close attention to what happens, how it connects with the text overall, and what the language choices made by the author indicate. Below is a list of elements to consider.

o Tone – is the overall feel of the passage playful? Formal? Informal? Sarcastic? Tragic? Comic? Mysterious? Frightening? Lyrical?

o Language – Pay attention to the type of language that is used.  This can clue you in to what the tone is like.  Also, watch for key words.

o Important Phrases – To read closely, focus on key words and phrases and the meaning they have.  While close reading does not always take us to the word or phrase level, the language choices can be very important to meaning.

o Possible Meanings – What is the overall meaning of the passage?  Does it have multiple meanings?

o Questions It Raises – Passages may answer questions or raise them.  Learning to ask good questions is the first step in learning to answer important questions.

o Relationship to Other Passages – Context is where meaning is frequently generated, so pay attention to patterns and connections in the text.  You may also want to pay attention to


While literary analysis is based in close reading, research into cultural context and what other literary scholars are saying is a great idea. How much research an argument needs differs based on the argument. In this particular essay, you may base it on the text alone, but if you would like to support your argument with research, here are some resources:

o MLA Database: you have access to this through the library, and it will show you most everything written on literary subjects (provided your search terms work well). Note that you may need to find a copy once you locate the resource’s information. This is not a full-text database

o Google Scholar: this is another great resource (again, you may need to track down the actual text once you find the bibliographic information)

o JSTOR: this is a decent database. It won’t have the most current articles, but it does have full-text.

o Librarians: talk to one of our librarians for help as you research

Remember that it is of the utmost importance to avoid plagiarism. To do this, make sure to cite your sources correctly in MLA format. You need to cite paraphrases and quotes in text and also make sure to provide a Works Cited page