Erika Kansas Harvey
Final Discussion Prep
The Code of Respect in The Joy Luck Club
A cultural code of communication is “a socially constructed and historically transmitted system of symbols, meanings, premises, and rules pertaining to communicative conduct” (Lecture #2, 10/1). We can find these codes in speech communities everywhere. A speech community is “a community sharing the rules for the conduct and interpretation of speech, and rules for the interpretation of at least one linguistic variety” (Lecture #3, 10/3). There are many different ways to interpret these codes depending on the speech community you belong to. For example, the Code of Dignity could be very ...view middle of the document...
A ritual is “a structured sequence of symbolic events, the correct performance of which pays explicit homage to a sacred object of a group of culture” (Lecture #14, 11/12). One of the first steps of this ritual is to invite all of the guests. In the Chinese culture nobody RSVP’d, instead it was just assumed that if you were invited you would attend. The guests of this wedding were extremely disrespectful of this ritual and the family because very few people showed up. Another step in the ritual that exemplifies a different kind of respect is the lighting of the red candle. For this step the matchmaker lights a red candle that has a wick on both ends and each end has either the bride or groom’s names written on it. At the end of the ceremony this candle is lit and if the flames make it through the night until the candle is gone, then there will be a successful marriage. In the middle of the night Lindo blows out the flame on her husband’s side of the candle because she does not want to be in the marriage. This act is incredibly disrespectful to her husband, her family, the matchmaker, and Chinese tradition. The servant that was supposed to be watching the candle all night was also very disrespectful when she left the candle unattended. This marriage was doomed from the start because many of the key roles in the ceremony did not care enough to communicate to the family that they did respect the marriage. The only reason she goes through with the whole marriage in the first place is because she respects her parents and her family name too much to disgrace them by going back on their promise. Since the ritual lacked the needed respect to carry out the correct performance of the sequence of events, the homage was not properly paid to their ancestors or their relationship.
We can actually draw a lot more out of the ritual of the Chinese wedding. Such as the red candle itself, which is actually a symbol. A symbol is “a vehicle of conception that is a tangible embodiment of the idea” (Lecture #12, 11/5). The red candle represents many different things within this ceremony. First, the color red symbolizes power, strength, and love. These are all things that the couple would want to respect in order to have a successful marriage. Also, the flame symbolizes passion and endurance as it fights through the night to stay lit. The candle burning all the way down is a clear symbol that the wedding would be a successful one that would last forever. These symbols all play significant rules that demand respect in the ritual of the wedding.
There are also many rules that the Chinese must follow in their ritual of a wedding. A rule is a “prescription or proscription for how to act under specified circumstance that has a degree of force in a particular social group” (Lecture #13, 11/7). A rule that was already mentioned was that guests who were invited to the wedding were supposed to show up to celebrate this occasion. Another rule is that...