A Pair of Tickets by Amy Tan
In A Pair of Tickets by Amy Tan we have the theme of belonging, heritage, identity, letting go, connection and hope. 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 from the beginning of the story the reader realizes that Tan may be exploring the theme of belonging. June has arrived in China and for the first time in her life she feels Chinese. This is a surprise to June as she has never felt Chinese nor did her friends every consider her to be Chinese despite her heritage. It is also interesting that June’s mother once told her that she would one day feel Chinese as it suggests that despite being dead. June’s mother is still very much part of her daughter’s life. Her death was sudden and it is as though June is on a pilgrimage to find out more about her mother and her two sisters.
The theme of letting go or rather the inability to let go is evident in the story. June’s mother has never been able to let go of the past and abandoning her daughters. Throughout her life she has written to friends in China asking for their help. This may be significant as it suggests that not only has June’s mother never let go of her daughters but she has also never forgotten them. The internal conflict she feels in many ways is mirrored by the circumstances of the daughters being abandoned. The Japanese had invaded China and the country was torn apart.
There may be some symbolism in the story which might be important. Tan uses yellow and pink several times in the story to highlight identity. This in many ways mirrors how June is feeling. Her mother wears pink, Aunt Aiyi wears yellow and pink and the young child is wearing pink. She does not feel as though she is Chinese until she meets her two sisters. The fact that the sisters are left with money and jewels suggests something regal about their abandonment. That they come from a good family who have come upon difficult times. Something which is very much the truth when it comes to June’s mother. She has fallen on tough times because of the war. If anything it gives the story a fairy tale quality. Something that is further noticeable when the sisters are found by a friend of June’s mother and they are shopping for shoes (Cinderella). The fact that China has changed and June’s mother has not when it comes to her quest for her daughters is interesting as it suggests that June’s mother has not been part of her daughters ‘s growing up. Their lives changed when she abandoned them. the pictures taken with the Polaroid camera are slow to develop much like June’s identity with being Chinese.
The end of the story is interesting as Tan appears to be exploring the theme of hope. June hopes that everything will be okay when she meets her sisters and it is. At first she can see her mother in their faces. Then they become unrecognizable. This may be important as it is only when the three sisters are literally together, hugging each other, that they become one and are a mirror of the mother. Finally June’s mother can rest knowing that her family are all together for the first time. The grief she had felt can disappear knowing that June has meet her sisters. The deep love that all three women feel for their mother exists beyond cultural and language barriers. June’s mother’s wish that the three be united has been fulfilled as too has June’s connection with her Chinese heritage.