When Jing-mei (June May), of Amy Tan's story "A Pair of Tickets," arrives in Guangzhou, what are some details that seem familiar to her, and what are some that seem exotic?

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vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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When Jing-mei (June May), of Amy Tan's story "A Pair of Tickets," arrives in Guangzhou, some details seem familiar to her, and some seem exotic.  Among the details that seem familiar are the following:

  • “low cement buildings, old factories, and then tracks and more tracks filled with trains”
  • “people wearing drab Western clothes”
  • crowds and crowding that make Jing-mei feel

as if I were getting on the number 30 Stockton bus in San Francisco.

  • “a large area filled with thousands of people and suitcases”
  • the way a Chinese child poses for a photograph “like a fashion model”
  • thick traffic on crowded highways
  • a skyline that looks like that “of a major American city”
  • a hotel that “looks like a grander version of the Hyatt Regency”
  • a hotel interior that looks strikingly familiar, with its many shops and restaurants
  • a small refrigerator in a hotel room – a refrigerator stocked with familiar beverages and snacks
  • a first-night’s supper of “hamburgers, french fries, and apple pie à la mode”

Among the details that seem exotic are these:

  • so many people who are shorter than Jing-mei
  • the Cantonese dialect spoken by some of Jing-mei May’s Chinese relatives
  • “a building, its front laced with scaffolding made of bamboo poles”
  • prepackaged shampoo that has “the consistency and color of hoisin sauce”

Ironically, then, Jing-Mei notices far more familiar details in Guangzhou than unfamiliar ones. Partly this is because she is staying in an up-scale hotel in a newer part of the city, but partly it is also because Chinese has been undergoing enormous economic and social transformations in the years before Jing-mei arrives in Guangzhou. One major theme of Tan’s novel involves both the similarities and differences between China and the U. S. (and between Chinese and Americans), and in this section of the book Tan chooses mainly to stress the similarities.

 

 

 

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