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In Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club, the chapter entitled, "A Pair of Tickets" shows how the setting mimics (and makes possible) the changes Jing-mei experiences.
Jing-mei’s trip to China serves as a metaphor for a journey into her perceptions about herself.
It has been hard for June (Jing-mei)—to understand her mother: mostly how her mother thinks. And to suffer embarrassment by the things her mother does—for though Suyuan Woo has tried hard to adjust to her new life in the United States, China has a hold over her entire way of thinking; she cannot look at America like other Americans, but only through the lens of her Chinese upbringing.
When June travels to China with her dad (the change of setting) after her mother's death, she immediately feels a connection to the land of her "forefathers" that she has never felt before:
The minute our train leaves the Hong Kong border and enters Shenzhen, China, I feel different. I can feel the skin on my forehead tingling, my blood rushing through a new course, my bones aching with a familiar old pain. And I think, My mother was right. I am becoming Chinese.
As June mentions all of these feelings, the one that strikes me most, and connects to a sense of her mother's spirit living within her, is that her bones "ache with a familiar old pain." June is not old, and China has never caused her pain—but she feels as her mother might feel. This is the first sense of her mother's "presence" and their connection.
As much as June contended that she was not Chinese, her mother always insisted that she could not remove that part of her simply because she chose not to acknowledge it. Her mother knew that it was hiding inside, biding its time.
"Someday you will see," said my mother. "It is in your blood, waiting to be let go.
June imagined that in recognizing her heritage, she would become embarrassingly like her mother. She never understood that being Chinese was something to be proud of. On this trip, instead of traveling with her parents, she is only with her father, but she is also "carrying with me her [mother's] dreams of coming home."
On this trip, she sees the spirit of her seventy-two year-old father transformed into a young boy: his heart is full of love and memories upon returning home. Her father’s aunt and family welcome June. In time, she asks her father to speak to her in Chinese—to tell the story of her mother's past—this shows her desire to embrace her heritage. Ultimately, they continue on, and June meets her half-sisters, the twins her mother was forced to leave behind when fleeing China during the war—never sure if they were alive or dead.
It is only by being in China, surrounded by the land, family and the sisters she has never met that June is transformed. Her doubts about her Chinese heritage disappear. She feels an almost supernatural connection to her siblings. As they meet and rejoice in each other's company, June sees her mother in the faces of her sisters, and feels her mother's presence—her joy—as they come together. This consummation of her mother's dreams becomes a defining moment in June's perceptions of herself. She is not an American, rejecting her mother's history and homeland; she is not Chinese; but she is a Chinese-American—and this realization is a welcome one.
The girls gather to see the Polaroid picture of them develop:
Together we look like our mother. Her same eyes, her same mouth, open in surprise to see, at last, her long-cherished wish.
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