In "A Pair of Tickets" from Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club, images used in the story indicate change, a central theme in this story.
Upon arriving in China, Jing-Mei reports that she feels like she is changing:
The minute our train...enters...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.
In the beginning of this "chapter," Jing-Mei remembers that she had once told her mother that she (Jing-Mei) wasn't really Chinese at all, but her mother assured her that it is buried deep within—it would stay there until she was ready to let it out:
Cannot be helped...someday you will see...it is in your blood, waiting to be let go.
When this occurs, Jing-Mei will have accepted her Chinese "side:" her mother is sure it will happen.
There are several images that support the theme of change in the story. Food may be one of these images. When Jing-Mei goes to China and she and her father check in to their hotel, their Chinese relatives want burgers and fries. However, Jing-Mei had been looking forward to her first Chinese meal. This could support the theme of change: had she come to China under different circumstances, Jing-Mei might also have preferred an American meal. Perhaps her desire for a "real" Chinese meal also indicates that she is going through a change.
Another image presented several times includes pictures. The first is the one in Jing-Mei's passport. When the picture was taken, Jing-Mei had a chic haircut and a good deal of make-up which altered her appearance. Now, because of the heat, her face is "bare;" this change may indicate that as she enters China, the people will see who she truly is and she will not be hiding behind a "mask," showing a changed Jing-Mei.
The fact that many things in China seem the same as they are in America make Jing-Mei comment twice (upon arriving at the hotel), "This is communist China?" These images of sameness may indicate that Jing-Mei is finding herself at home with the Chinese culture: it is not as "foreign" to her as she had thought.
Dreams are a recurring image in the story: her dreams and her mother's dreams. Before Jing-Mei leaves for China, she repeatedly dreams of her half-sisters rejecting her. The image she has of them and herself in the dream are very different than their images when they meet. At first glance, the twins look just like Jing-Mei's mother. In a moment, that image changes. They are her family—they embrace each other and see their mother within each other. This shows a transformation in how Jing-Mei sees herself, her sisters, and her vision of how they all "connect" to their mother.
Jing-Mei's mother had a dream of returning home. That cannot be, but her daughter does so instead. Jing-Mei's mother also...
dreamed that her children would be united—her "long-cherished wish:" this occurs (joyously) because Jing-Mei sees herself and her heritage differently, and has "embraced her mother's dream as her own."
There are also the images of the Polaroid pictures Jing-Mei takes. They change gradually, mimicking the passage of time needed for Jing-Mei to find herself. As with life, the picture gives only a shadow of what may come—it is not until the reaction of the chemicals is complete that one can fully see the final, finished image: three sisters very much like their mother, and Jing-Mei—her mother's daughter at last.