Amy Tan “A Pair of Tickets”

Amy Tan “A pair of tickets”


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This essay presents a Jing-mei, a lady who does not want to be Chinese and she fears that she cannot become Chinese. She however manages to solve these problems by visiting china. Jing-mei is an American born Chinese woman who is not willing to accept the fact that she is Chinese. Even though Jing-mei is presented as being Chinese, who was born in America, she only believes that the only representation of Chinese are her parents. This can be proved by the fact that she hates whatever her mother does. She terms them embarrassing and being Chinese. She views “haggling with store owners, picking her mouth with a toothpick in public” as being Chinese (Mussari, 2011:120). This paper looks at the life Jing-mei while she was leaving in America as well as the transformations that she goes through while she visits her sibling in China.

Jing-mei also views her mother’s idiosyncrasies as being Chinese. When she was fifteen years of age she told her mother that she is not Chinese and then she compared her friends by saying that “I was about as Chinese as they were”. Amy Tan presents Jing-mei as a lady who never wanted to be different from her friends. Due to the fact that she has been through hard times trying to accept her mum, she fears that her friends too might not accept her if in case she was Chinese. She believes that the moment she will start to feel that she is Chinese that will be the moment she will become a different person. Her mother however is not convinced that she (Jing-mei) does not feel Chinese.

Having studied genetics at a famous nursing school, she always use to tell her daughter that “Once you are born Chinese, you cannot help but feel and think Chinese (Mussari, 2011:120). At one point her mother told her that she will at one day see that being Chinese is in her blood. She tries to imagine that at one point she will have to transform. She imagines transforming as if she were a wolf, turning into a creature that no one will identify. When she takes a look at her physical appearance, she however feels encouraged that “she could never pass for true Chinese” (Mussari, 2011:123). She is above average in height when she is compared to the Asian people. This because she stands five to six foot. This belief which she has always had is further strengthened when she visits china. Her eye level is almost the same with other tourists who are in the crowd.

When the mother died, she had to go to china along with her old father to let her sisters know of the demise of their parent. The mother had left the kids a long time ago and they do not remember who she is now. It now forces Jing-mei to go and make connections with them. She however fears that for her to establish the connection with them, she has to be Chinese. She now starts to imagine meeting the sisters at the airport and telling them that their mother is dead. She fears calling them out “Jyejye, Jyejye, we are here (Mussari, 2011:122). She fears her poor version of the Chinese language.

For quite a long time, she has never wanted to be Chinese. The idea of meeting her sisters has created an urge in her to learn Chinese. She now wants to poses certain Chinese qualities. When they arrive in China, she tries to speak with Lily. She tells her, “Hello, my name is Jing-mei’… the little girl “squirms to look away forcing her parents to laugh with embarrassment” (Mussari, 2011:125). At this moment she tries to think of word which she can say to Lily. All she manages to recall are the swearing words as well as the short phrases which she had learnt from her friends when they were hanging in Chinatown.

She now had a different feeling. She wanted to communicate with her relatives. Her insensitivity to her heritage has been the biggest barrier to her communication. She fears that the death of her mother made her lose her link to being Chinese. Her name is also a misery to her. At the age of 36, she still does not know the meaning of her Chinese name. She approaches her father and he inform her of the meaning of her name. She learns that Jing means excellent. It is not something that is just good but it’s pure, essential. The best quality. Mei means something common (Mussari, 2011:129). She wonders whether her mum’s intent was at the meaning of her names.

It is while in china that she resolves the conflict which she had always with herself not wanting to be identified as being Chinese. She comes to a conclusion that she can be both American and Chinese. When she arrives at Shenzhen, she feels quite different. “I can feel the skin on my forehead tingling, my blood rushing through a new course…” (Mussari, 2011:120). Just by entering china, she does not feel bothered by feeling Chinese. She has welcomed this new feeling. It has become part of her. When she was travelling and the father is telling her some stories, she encourages the father to speak to her in Chinese as she now understands (Mussari, 2011:129).

Jing-mei’s conflict with herself can be understood as what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. This in real sense is the human nature. People easily criticize themselves and others by being different. So as to overcome this, power should be gained from within. The power which is gained should be a person’s strength and ability that enables people to see themselves through their own eyes and not other people’s eyes.

Work cited

Mussari, Mark. Amy Tan. New York: Marshall Cavendish Benchmark, 2011. Print.

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