Why is the opening scene an appropriate setting for Jing Mei’s remark that she is “becoming Chinese”?

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mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Amy Tan wrote "A Pair of Tickets," the novel's last chapter, first as a short story.  She wrote the story and subsequent novel to better understand her mother.  She dedicates the novel to her mother, "to the memory of her."  In the dedication, she says, "You asked me once what I would remember.  This, and much more."  China had only been a memory to Jing-Mei.  It was the setting for her mother's and aunts' stories.

In the opening story, "The Joy Luck Club," Jing-Mei's mother has already died and she is taking her place.  As a first-generation American, Jing-Mei has, up until then, taken her Chinese heritage for granted.  She has been spoiled on Coca-Cola and perfect American English.  It is not until she climbs into the fourth corner of the Mah-Jong table, her mother's, that she realizes that she can "become Chinese."  Up until then she has been Chinese-American only.

For her to become "fully Chinese," or fully to identify with her mother, she must travel back to China and meet the twins that her mother left behind during the war.  They are the symbols of sacrifice and the embodiment of Jing-Mei's heritage.  Jing-Mei had always thought they were dead, just as she had thought her heritage was dead, part of her past.  But now that she knows they are alive, Jing-Mei begins to "become Chinese," to become like her mother.

Jing-Mei had also thought that China was "the old country," a stagnant place, an almost Third-World country of peasants and disease.  But in "A Pair of Tickets," she visits China, sees its modern hotels and the superhighways and speaks the language to the twins.  Only then does she become proud of her Motherland.

Read the study guide:
The Joy Luck Club

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