A Pair of Tickets By Amy Tang Essay
“A Pair of Tickets” By Amy Tan
Amy Tan’s story is about Jing-Mei, the principal character that struggles to establish her self-identity through her connection to a place, ethnicity, and heritage. The story is about Jing’s comeback experience in China and delivering the news to the half-sisters about their mother’s death. Jing is accompanied by her seventy-two-year-old, Canning Woo into a train heading to Guangzhou, where they meet with the half-sisters and her Canning’s great aunt. The union becomes very emotional. Jing notices the significant change in China, unlike her home in America. In the various instances in the story, Tan uses themes, styles, setting, and other rhetorical features to create meaning in the story. One of the themes that Tan explores in depth is self-identity and self-discovery. The story is about Jing searching for an ethnic identity after living in a foreign land away from her motherland, China. Therefore, the essay will explore the some of the literary styles used to show how Jing relates with China and her relatives in China when she meets them. Based on the discussion, it can be argued that Jing realizes that she has missed home so much that she is eager to learn and experience the rich culture and lifestyles of her folklore families in China.
Tan uses the style of setting to make the reader see how Jing discerns the extreme differences between America and China. The setting of Guangzhou, China, is different regarding culture and place. Jing has a different perspective of China, such as it is run by communists, is dirty, and is a slummy country. When she arrives in Guangzhou, China, she realizes that it is different from what she had imagined. The setting makes her feel that she is at home, and she misses everything that she encounters when her relatives welcome her (McGuigan 32). For instance, the construction of Guangzhou and the Chinese’s shoving and pushing makes her realize that the place is more attractive than America. In Tan (267), she says that the “streaming of people into the city and the long-waiting line at the station made her feel boarding a city bus heading to San Francisco.” Even the hotel she goes to dine in looks beautiful. She misses eating ‘real’ Chinese food, and she describes the hotel as “looking like a grander version of the Hyatt Regency” (Tan 275). Guangzhou, the Chinese people, and the Chinese foods are attractive to Jing, making her feel happy for being at home. Thus, the Guangzhou setting helps to create the connection between Jing’s self-identity and her ethnicity.
Another rhetoric tool that Tan employs in the story is the theme of self-identity. The theme is depicts a connection with the theme of appearance and reality as portrayed in the story (Wilde 70). For example, the three sisters that Jing meets in Guangzhou make her feel that she is related by blood. The three sisters look like their mother, and other times they are not. Jing thinks the two sisters resemble her mother when she recognizes them while entering the terminal (Tan 280). She learns later that they do not resemble her mother, despite having close resemblances, which disappoints her because she shortly enjoys a daughter’s connection to her mother. Regardless, even though Jing is in a foreign place, the three sisters remind her of her lovely country, China. Another nostalgic experience she faces in seeking self-identity is when Canning, her father, takes a photo of the three girls from a Polaroid camera. Jing notices that they all look the same as their mother. They share her mother’s eyes, mouth, and the genuine surprise smile the mother had before she passed away (Tan 282). Eventually, Tang resolves this feeling of emptiness by rationalizing that she sees no difference between appearance and reality. The fact that the three sisters resemble her mother is enough to make her believe she is in a China town.
Jing’s character further illustrates her search for self-discovery when she visits her relatives in China. Jing is determined like her mother; as a result, she thinks she can portray behaviors of her mother. For example, Jing is always determined to get money’s worth, such as how she complains at a hotel booking office. She fumes after complaining that she had instructed the travel agent to choose something inexpensive of between 30-to-40-dollar ranges (Tan 273). Her tempers are the same as those of her mother, which the relatives notice. They comment that they see her mother through Jing. This further reveals that Jing’s qualities are rooted to her homeland in China.
Tan uses the point-of-view technique to show how much the protagonist misses her China home even when she has a life in America. From Jing’s point of view, the reader can see the way she struggles to relate with the three sisters she meets at the station, who remind her of her mother (McGuigan 165). As she observes behaviors of the three sisters, she thinks of fairy tales her mother narrated. She cannot stop thinking the three sisters represent the image of her mother, which makes her miss to return to China. Tang describes the two sisters as fairy tale queens and uses this motif to explain what happened to their mother to the sisters. The fairy queens are left with jewels and money stuffed in their pockets on the road for a well-wisher to pick them (Tan 270). Luckily, a peasant family likes them, and from that day, they are on a journey to rediscover their actual identity, which is completed with their reunion with Jing.
Tan’s story, "A Pair of Tickets," tells how a person struggles with her self-discovery and the desire to be together with her family in China. Canning realizes that Guangzhou has a culture that is more real than Chinese people living in America. Jing’s cousins are also fascinated by the American lifestyle that Jing portrays and are eager to learn adopt it. Jing wants to taste the real Chinese food while her cousins want to eat American dishes at a restaurant. As seen from the story, self-discovery is portrayed through different literary techniques, including theme, motif, point of view, and setting. Jing imagines that Guangzhou is not a good place at first, but when she finally gets there, she realizes that she loves the area more than her home in America. In Guangzhou, she enjoys being around people that remind her of her ethnic identity and are linked to a largerscope with the relatives.
McGuigan, Brendan. Rhetorical Devices: A Handbook and Activities for Student Writers.
Prestwick House Inc, 2011.
Tan, Amy. The Joy Luck Club. Penguin, 2006.
Wilde, Laura. Rhetorical Strategies and Genre Conventions in Literary Studies: Teaching and
Writing in the Disciplines. SIU Press, 2012.