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The Joy Luck Club

by Amy Tan

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Analyze the given quote from The Joy Luck Club's "A Pair of Tickets" and connect it to the theme of Chinese identity. How does it contribute to the chapter and the novel's ending?

"I look at their faces again and I see no trace of my mother in them. Yet they still look familiar. And now I also see what part of me is Chinese. It is so obvious. It is my family. It is in our blood. After all these years, it can finally be let go."

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The quote from The Joy Luck Club is significant because it comes at the end of a novel that explores the themes of cultural identity, belonging, and family through the lives and voices of many characters. The quote emerges as an answer to a key question of the entire work: what part of me is my mother? This underscores an exploration at the heart of the novel and indeed the immigrant experience: how can I reconcile my cultural heritage with my own American identity?

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To analyze the quote more fully, we need to put it into the context of the story and the novel. The quote actually references an earlier conversation between the narrator of the story—Jing-Mei Woo—and her deceased mother, Suyuan. As the story is told, Jing is sitting on a train that is crossing the Hong Kong border as it enters Shenzhen, China. This journey is significant and symbolic. As well as crossing into China, Jing-Mei is also crossing into the world of her mother, who came to the United States as a Chinese immigrant. She experiences this point of crossing over in a visceral way: “I can feel the skin on my forehead tingling, my blood rushing through a new course, my bones aching with a familiar old pain.” At this moment the narrator realizes she is “becoming Chinese” but also becoming like her own mother. This is significant because in this way Jing-Mei bridges America and China.

Jing-Mei’s journey continues with an imaginary conversation with her mother. Through the author’s use of direct speech, the conversation seems real, as if the mother were sitting next to her daughter on the train. But the conversation is only remembered. Her mother had asserted that the Chinese identity was inevitable, something that “cannot be helped.” The mother asserts that “once you are born Chinese, you cannot help but feel and think Chinese.” One’s cultural identity is inescapable, like fate. As her mother points out: “Someday you will see ... it is in your blood, waiting to be let go.”

We can note that the imagery and symbolism of blood recurs again at the end of the story when Jing-Mei realizes her own essence as she recognizes the truth in her mother’s words from long ago. As she looks into the faces of her sisters, she searches in vain for evidence of her mother. She realizes that the “Chinese” part of her identity is anchored in something deeper than surface appearances. It is anchored in her family. In an act of reconciliation, she states that this is such a deep part of who she is that it is in her blood. Just like her mother predicted, this can “finally be let go.”

The story ends with the striking image of Jim-Mei and her sisters caught in a picture her father took with a Polaroid camera. The sisters huddle around the picture to see how it will develop. The surface of the picture transforms from a gray-green to bright colors. The faces of the sisters are brought into sharper relief. The final realization is the epiphany that closes the novel: “And although we don’t speak, I know we all see it: Together we look like our mother. Her same eyes, her same mouth, open in surprise to see, at last, her long-cherished wish.”

In granting the mother’s life-long wish, Jing-Mei’s narration closes the novel with a tone of reconciliation and reverence—a sense that the past can be put to rest, and the complexity of Jing-Mei’s cultural identity can finally be cherished and celebrated. Just like the bright colors of the photograph, a person’s identity can possess multiple dimensions. In silence, the barriers, misunderstandings, and tensions between mothers and daughters, elucidated and mediated upon throughout the entire novel, can be put to rest.

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Analyze the following quote from The Joy Luck Club ("A Pair of Tickets") and connect it to themes of family and what it means to be Chinese, and describe how passage works as part of the chapter: "As soon as I get beyond the gate, we run towards each other, all three of us embracing, all hesitations and expectations forgotten."

In the final chapter of Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club, "A Pair of Tickets," Jing-mei Woo goes to China with her father, Canning, to meet her long-lost half-sisters. Jing-mei's mother Suyuan has recently passed away, so she did not live to discover that her twins had been found. Suyuan was forced to abandon the twins as babies when she fled Kweilen ahead of a Japanese invasion; she was convinced she would die and wanted to give her daughters a chance at life. Suyuan miraculously survived, though, and sought her twins for the rest of her life, to no avail. After her death, a letter arrives from the girls, and Suyuan's friends in the Joy Luck Club decide Jing-mei should go in Suyuan's place to meet her half-sisters.

Jing-mei is concerned and anxious that she will not be able to fill her mother's place. She thinks she doesn't know her mother well enough and that she doesn't feel like she will adjust well to being in China. Nevertheless, when the final chapter begins, Jing-mei already starts to feel she is "becoming Chinese." The quote in this question occurs near the end of the chapter (and end of the novel). When Jing-mei sees her sisters in the airport, they rush to embrace each other and whisper "Mama" together. Their "hesitations and expectations [are] forgotten" because, Tan suggests, they feel a natural familial bond that stems from each woman being the daughter of Suyuan. Through their relation to her, they are connected to each other. In fulfilling her mother's "long-cherished wish" of meeting the twins (instead of Suyuan being reunited with her daughters), Jing-mei connects to her roots, both familial and national/cultural. By meeting the twins, Jing-mei physically grasps her mother's history in China. This quote on the novel's second-to-last page serves as a resolution for Jing-mei's and Suyuan's fraught relationship and offers hope to the novel's other characters that they may find those connections with their mothers and with their shared cultural heritage.

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