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The main ideas in Amy Tan's short story "A Pair of Tickets," the last story in her novel The Joy Luck Club, are related to the synthesis of cultural identity: Jing-Mei, her mother, her motherland (China), and her half-sisters (the twins) are all connected by the end. Not only is blood thicker than water, but it is not bound by time or space: it travels a thousand li to reveal itself.
"A Pair of Tickets" chronicles Tan's real-life trip to China with her ailing mother in 1987, a trip that was not only a cultural revelation, but a stylistic one as well. The title, "A Pair of Tickets," emphasizes a journey. Amy Tan juxtaposes the old world Chinese values with the new world "American Dream." So says Enotes:
Jing-mei’s trip to China serves as a metaphor for a journey into her perceptions about herself. She considers how she has viewed her sisters, China itself, her mother, and herself as Chinese.
The focus is on cultural synthesis: Jing-Mei assimilates her American and Chinese identities into a hybrid identity. The story is filled with transformation: Jing-Mei Woo imagines her older "identical sisters transforming from little babies into six-year-old girls" (269), half expecting them to arrive in rickshaw wearing peasant pineapple hats. When her aunt says, "Once you are born Chinese, you cannot help but feel and think Chinese," Jing-Mei responds with, "I saw myself transforming like a werewolf, a mutant tag of DNA suddenly triggered" (267). Just as she never learns to play Mah-Jong or chess using Chinese strategy, Jing-Mei never feels or thinks Chinese until the novel's end.
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