Best Quality by Amy Tan
In Best Quality by Amy Tan we have the theme of self-worth, humiliation, confidence, sacrifice, selflessness and acceptance. Taken from her The Joy Luck Club collection the story is narrated in the first person by a woman called Jing-Mei Woo (June) and after reading the story the reader realizes that Tan may be exploring the theme of self-worth. June does not have much confidence and does not necessarily believe she should have the best in anything. The crab with the missing leg being an example. She picks it but her mother tells her that it is bad luck only for the shop owner to blame June on breaking the crab’s leg. June does not stand up for herself and disagree with the shop owner rather she is submissive and accepts things that she should not accept. If anything June lacks confidence. Something that is noticeable when Waverly puts June down over her submission to the tax firm.
Waverly on the other hand is full of confidence. Something which is symbolically noticeable when she picks the best crabs for herself, her fiancé, mother and daughter. She does not think as though others might be more deserving of the best crabs. Some critics might suggest that Waverly is being selfish but she just appears to be more confident than others and looks after herself and those around her. Regardless, others accept Waverly for who she is and do not question her. Apart from June who wants to humiliate Waverly but ends up being humiliated herself over her submission. The new set of dishes might have a symbolic significance as Tan might be using them to highlight the fact that June’s mother does not necessarily like change and is rooted in her ideals. Though she tells June she forgot about the new dishes this may not necessarily be the case. The new dishes could represent America and June’s mother would be anything but American in her views.
There may be further symbolism in the story which might be important. The extra crab that June’s mother prepares and which she takes for herself could highlight or represent the fact that she is selfless. June’s mother will take the worst crab for herself. Though she does not eat it and makes sure that June doesn’t take it either. The red jumper that June’s mother is wearing might symbolize sacrifice. Just as June’s mother takes the less favourable crab for her dinner. Likewise she takes a cheap jumper for herself while giving June the jade pendant. Which might symbolise life as it is being given to Jade as part of her life’s importance. Unfortunately Jade does not really know what the pendant symbolizes and never got a chance to ask her mother.
The end of the story is interesting as June’s mother ends up criticizing Waverly when she realizes that June is upset. Though it might be important that she did not defend June in public. This could suggest that June’s mother believes that people need to stand on their own two feet and take the knocks when they come. If anything June’s mother could believe in the adage that if it doesn’t kill you it will make you stronger. However she is wise enough to see that June needs her support. It is only then that June realizes that her mother is showing her the compassion that she too shows others (pet crab). She has learnt something from her mother which will help in boosting her self-worth and confidence.