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The Joy Luck Club

by Amy Tan

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What are the key quotations in "A Pair of Tickets" from The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan?

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"A Pair of Tickets" is the final story in Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club, and, as such, it contains a lot of important thematic quotes. In this chapter, Jing-Mei Woo goes to China to meet her long-lost half-sisters, effectively bridging the gap between her mother's former life in China and her own identity as a Chinese-American woman.

Early in the chapter, Jing-Mei writes,

"I was a sophomore at Galileo High in San Francisco, and all my Caucasian friends agreed: I was about as Chinese as they were. But my mother had studied at a famous nursing school in Shanghai, and she said she knew all about genetics. So there was no doubt in her mind, whether I agreed or not: Once you are born Chinese, you cannot help but feel and think Chinese."

Throughout the novel, Jing-Mei and the other daughters of the Joy Luck Club have struggled with their identities as Chinese-American women, unable to completely reconcile what part of them is Chinese and what part is American. They often lean heavily into being more American until it becomes fashionable to be Chinese, always trying to escape their embarrassing mothers and cement their own unique identities. Here, Jing-Mei recalls her mother's words before she goes to China for the first time, wondering how she will be received by her Chinese extended family.

Until this point, Jing-Mei has avoided dealing with her heritage. Her mother's death encourages her to explore that part of her, and it makes her nervous--she compares this idea of feeling and thinking Chinese to turning into a werewolf, as though it's something she can't control. Over the course of the chapter, she discovers what being Chinese means to her.

Another important quote in this chapter is:

"And I whispered, 'They'll think I'm responsible, that she died because I didn't appreciate her.'

And Auntie Lindo looked satisfied and sad at the same time, as if this were true and I had finally realized it."

Here, Jing-Mei worries that her half-sisters will be angry if she tells them that their mother is dead because they will know she never really appreciated her. All of the daughters of the Joy Luck Club struggle with this, to some degree--between the mothers and daughters, there is often an effort to reshape each other into a more desirable form. When Jing-Mei speaks these words aloud, Auntie Lindo acknowledges them because she, like the other mothers, likely feels that she is not understood or appreciated by her children. That it takes until Suyuan Woo's death for her daughter to appreciate her makes her sad, likely because she thinks the same will be true of her own daughter.

Despite being her daughter, Jing-Mei doesn't know much about her mother. She knows some of her history in China, but it's not until later in the chapter that she learns from her father what exactly happened to her half-sisters and how important it was to Suyuan that she find them. Throughout the chapter, she comes to understand her mother better.

At one point in the chapter, Jing-Mei asks her father what her name means. When he explains that it is a combination of something's pure essence and the word for 'little sister,' that, combined with the meaning of her mother's name being, 'long-cherished wish,' sets her thinking about how she has measured up to her mother's expectations:

"I think about this. My mother's long-cherished wish. Me, the younger sister who was supposed to be the essence of the others. I feed myself with the old grief, wondering how disappointed my mother must have been."

Here, Jing-Mei further considers her relationship to her mother and her half-sisters. They, unlike Jing-Mei, are Chinese rather than Chinese-American; though she is called the pure essence, she feels a degree of guilt for never being as Chinese as she believes her mother wanted her to be. Even after her death, her mother's expectations affect her. She feels inadequate in comparison to the half-sisters she has never met because they represent the life Suyuan should have had rather than the one she really had.

Another important part of the chapter reads, "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."

Jing-Mei has grappled with the fact that she's not certain what part of her is Chinese and what part of her is American, and, upon going to China and meeting her sisters, she is able to understand what unites them. She meets her sisters and immediately feels drawn to them despite the distance and despite their never having met before; they're united because they're family and because they're Chinese. Even though they were raised under vastly different circumstances, they both contain the essence and strength of their mother. It's not their way of thinking nor their birthplace that makes them Chinese, but rather their shared ancestry and the deep familial connection that brings them together.

Finally, the end of the chapter reads, "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."

Until this point Jing-Mei, along with her half-sisters, has felt that their mother is something of a mystery. But when they get together and look at each other in a photo, they're able to see her in their shared features. Like Jing-Mei's understanding of what it is about her that is Chinese, they come to see that their mother is part of them. While they may never fully know her, when together, they see that they are the long-cherished wish--the legacy of their mother, the sacrifices and hard work it took to ensure they lived and thrived. While they may not have felt the gratitude that Suyuan wanted in life, in this final scene they realize that what she wanted most was her family, alive, safe, and together, and they have finally realized that wish.

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