Half and Half by Amy Tan
In Half and Half by Amy Tan we have the theme of connection, control, insecurity, fear, responsibility, acceptance, letting go, tradition and loss. Narrated in the first person by a woman called Rose Hsu Jordan the reader realises after reading the story that Tan may be exploring the theme of connection. Despite being from two separate and individual backgrounds the narrator when she is younger connects with Ted. He appears to compliment the narrator’s character and any concerns that the narrator may have lessen when she is with Ted or when she asks Ted for advice. This may be important as the narrator in many ways is allowing her insecurities to be controlled by Ted rather than facing them for herself. Though it is normal to seek advice from a loved one (or a friend) the narrator is very much dependent on Ted. However it is noticeable that after Ted loses his malpractice case he loses all his confidence and becomes reliant on the narrator. Who appears to be unable to take on the role of being the one responsible for making decisions. It is for this reason that Ted may be seeking a divorce.
What is also interesting about the reversal of roles within the narrator’s relationship with Ted is the fact that the narrator does not see that she has an inability to take responsibility. Something that is clearer to the reader when Bing drowns. Though the narrator was supposed to keep an eye on Bing some critics might suggest that she did not fulfil the role as she might have done. The narrator’s mother is also an interesting character as she has strong traditional beliefs. Something that is noticeable when she is attempting to reclaim Bing from the sea. However some observers might suggest that the narrator’s mother is simply unable to let go of or accept the fact that Bing has died. The fact that the narrator’s mother also wrote Bing’s name in her bible using an erasable pencil might be significant as this might suggest that the narrator’s mother believes she can remove Bing’s name from the bible and that he is not really dead. If anything the reader is left with a feeling that the narrator’s mother expects Bing to come back. Something which would again play on the theme of acceptance. Despite the passing of time the narrator’s mother has never accepted the loss of Bing.
There is also some symbolism in the story which might be important. The bible may symbolise the narrator’s mother’s loss of faith. However the fact that she uses the bible to balance a table may suggest that the narrator’s mother may still believe in the need of an individual to balance their life with faith. Though she may not have the same faith she previously had. The narrator’s mother still knows that it is important. The table too. The fact that it needs the bible to keep it balanced in many ways mirrors the narrator’s mother’s imbalance in her life. As mentioned she has never let go of Bing’s death. The bamboo fishing rod that the narrator’s father uses to fish with may also have some symbolic significance. Not only does it have a traditional representation but it may also represent the father’s hopes for prosperity in America. The fact that the narrator’s mother also drives to the beach even though she does not know how to drive could symbolise the narrator’s mother’s desire to be in control. To have a firm grip on what is happening. That being finding Bing.
The end of the story is also interesting as there is a sense that the narrator’s mother by telling the narrator to fight for her marriage. Is in reality telling her to never give up. Just as the narrator’s mother has never given up on Bing. It may also be significant that the narrator’s mother tells the narrator that she should think for herself. If she doesn’t then she isn’t trying. Something that the reader realises has been the case with the narrator throughout the story. So insecure was the narrator at the start of her relationship with Ted she couldn’t make a decision for herself. She had to be told what to do. Now that the marriage appears to be over the narrator is again looking for advice. This time from her mother. It is as though the narrator is afraid to take responsibility for her life (and marriage) and prefers instead to seek the advice of others. In that way the narrator cannot blame herself and judge herself to be responsible. The narrator seems to be looking for a safety net rather than having to make decisions for herself. If anything the narrator is willing to accept her circumstances based on the opinions of others.