Utilizing the perceptions in the context of the story that mirror the mixture of American-Chinese living, Amy Tan is the type of author who emphasizes the relationship between a Chinese mother and her Americanized daughter in the plot of her short story A Pair of Tickets. The story attempts at giving an enlightening narration of how it feels to be an individual who struggles for identity, of having a firm understanding and feeling of being a citizen of a single nationality by heart, action, mind, and spirit.
In order to have a complete understanding of the underlying themes and crucial passages in the story, it is important to not only focus on the roles of the characters in terms of the story’s content but also on the very consequences brought by these roles in terms of its impact on the relationship between mother and daughter and the society in general. To keep track of the transition of the scenes in the story, it is also important to keep a strong attention and firm grasp on the developments on the characters as the story unfolds a great portion of telling parts.
To help one arrive at a better understanding of the content of the story, it is helpful to have a brief sketch of the underlying social issues in the course of the story. It serves as a reminder not only of the progression of the story towards its final and climactic parts but also of the notions that lie beneath—notions such as heritage and ethnic identity that some people abandon for the sake of acquiring things they may deem as far more externally superior.
A look into the story
The story centers on the relationship between an aging Chinese mother, Suyuan Woo, and her growing-up Americanized daughter, Jing-mei Woo, with the mother conveying and making the daughter feel and understand the rich cultural heritage that they both have and have acquired from their Chinese roots (Fong). However, the daughter is disillusioned and is convinced to just simply understand her aging mother’s condition in life. While the mother’s feelings are strongly attached to their Chinese identity, the daughter appears to disregard the wisdom of her mother and, instead, allows her complete ignorance of her ethnic identity to take over her life.
Nevertheless, Jing-mei Woo made the effort to voyage back to China at the age of thirty-six in order for her to discover her roots and the wonders of the rich heritage her mother has always told her during the days when she was still alive. During her travel and stay in China, she was then able to realize for herself that her mother was right all along. This was helped in no small way by the explanations made by her father on her family heritage and what the rest of her ethnic identity has.
In the story, Jing-mei made several trips across China in her attempt to trace the information that her mother has told her back when she was still alive. Some of these include Guangzhou where Jing-mei plans to be with her father when they are to be with their aunt again after long years.
In Shanghai, Jing-mei will come to be with her half-sisters for the very first time in her life since she was born. This shows that she has no exact idea about her two half-sisters, showing all the more that with her first visit she has no idea what may happen, or if she will be accepted by them or if she will be able to accept them as one of their family members.
The names of the two half-sisters of Jing-mei are interesting to note primarily because the meanings of their names tell us something more. The names ‘Chwun Yu’ and ‘Chwun Hwa’ are names that refer to ‘Spring Rain’ and ‘Spring Flower’ respectively, initially suggesting the idea that there is something about the name ‘Spring’ (Tan).
It can be said that the name ‘Spring’ symbolizes something else other than the literal meaning. It may actually symbolize the concept of ‘hope’ since the word ‘spring’ refers to the time of year when flowers and all the rest of the plants bloom again. It tells us about the time when all we thought about is that everything is lost there still remains the possibility of having things back, or at least having things that are quite similar to what we have lost along the way.
The names also suggest the order of their birth as well as it also symbolizes the condition of their lives at the time when they are with their mother again because it shows how hope came into their lives as they treasure such moment again. Further, the time when both of the sisters were born happened to be spring season, and that the rain essentially arrives first before the blooming of flowers during the time of spring.
Far more importantly, the name ‘Jing-mei’ suggests an interesting idea worthy of looking into aside from its literal context. The name essentially translates to ‘pure essential younger sister’ which signifies the idea that, first, she is essentially important to the life of her mother since she is the only one who can stay with her during those times when they were far from China.
Second, Jing-mei is the youngest sister of her half-sisters which literally emphasizes the idea that Jing-mei has lower status in the family as compared to her older half-sisters although being half-sisters meant that they are merely attached to one another in terms of their mother.
Of power and men
Looking at our world today, we can see that the concept of power we have presently is a little bit different to that of what we had before, but they are definitely connected. Power struggles due to wars and invasions are now minimal, even though we still experience it at certain times. Our world, the different nations and societies in it, are slowly moving towards a certain unity, observing the concept of globalization that was introduced to us a few years back. But even though we are moving towards unification, there are still certain power struggles that are evident. Then, the concern would fall on the question of control of this power, on who actually conquers this power (Feuer).
Two ideas that pertain to the concept of power can be extracted from the story A Pair of Tickets. The first idea of power rests on the understanding that the story portrays the context of the formation of The Joy Luck Club in China at the height of war (Webb). The second precept can be observed on the lingering superiority of the American thought in the mind of Jing-mei who has her Chinese heritage hanging in the balance.
There are many other underlying principles regarding who really possesses the power. It may be in the producers, the labor forces, or the politicians, but nevertheless, the ones who have a say on everything are the people, the masses. They are the ones who consume the producers’ products, which are made by the labor forces, and they are also the ones who instill the people in politics. Everything was made and done for them, so it is clear that the power just revolves around the people.
In the same manner, A Pair of Tickets emphasizes the domestic role between mother and daughter, especially the life story of Suyuan Woo, the aging mother who kept on instilling to her daughter, Jing-mei, the significance of their rich cultural heritage as the story implies a subtle yet evoking hint of power and its effects on the perceptions of individuals and its dominating control over the worldviews of those who are already engulfed by a foreign culture other than their own.
Feuer, Lewis S. “Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Reference to Karl Marx.” The New England Quarterly 33.3 (1960): 378-79.
Fong, Yem Siu. “Review: The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan.” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 11.3 (1990).
Seidman, Steven. “The Main Aims and Thematic Structures of Max Weber’s Sociology.” Canadian Journal of Sociology 9.4 (1984): 381-404.
Tan, Amy. “A Pair of Tickets.” The Joy Luck Club. New York: Penguin, 2006. 267-85.
Webb, Richard E. “The War in China.” Far Eastern Survey 11.4 (1942): 49-50.
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