Amy Tan's A Pair of Tickets: Summary & Analysis

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  • 0:01 A Pair of Tickets Synopsis
  • 3:21 Literary Analysis
  • 4:59 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Katherine Garner

Katie teaches middle school English/Language Arts and has a master's degree in Secondary English Education

Amy Tan's popular 1989 novel, 'The Joy Luck Club,' is made up of a series of short stories that are interwoven to form a larger narrative. 'A Pair of Tickets' is the final story of the book. In this lesson, you will read a summary of the story, as well as an analysis of its major themes and how it functions within the novel.

'A Pair of Tickets:' Synopsis

In 'A Pair of Tickets,' the final chapter of Amy Tan's novel The Joy Luck Club, Jing-Mei Woo, a 36-year-old woman, is traveling through China with Canning Woo, her elderly father. Her mother has recen tly died, and they have come from their home in San Francisco to China to visit relatives. While traveling, Jing-Mei reflects on her Chinese heritage. She remembers once telling her mother, Suyuan, that she does not feel Chinese and that her lifestyle in California has little connection to her Chinese heritage. In response, Jing-Mei's mother predicted that one day, something would trigger this connection, saying, 'Someday you'll seeā€¦It is in your blood, waiting to be let go.'

Jing-Mei is especially apprehensive about one leg of the trip. After visiting with her father's relatives, the Woos plan to see Jing-Mei's twin half sisters, whom she has never met. Forced to abandon them during the Japanese invasion of the 1940s, Suyuan never stopped dreaming about a reunion with her lost daughters, even after she met Jing-Mei's father, moved to America, and had Jing-Mei. After Suyuan died, Jing-Mei's family received a letter from the twin sisters, who have learned that their mother is dead. Jing-Mei and her father then began making plans for what turns out to be a spiritually significant journey, or pilgrimage, to China.

During Canning's and Jing-Mei's visit with his relatives, Jing-Mei learns more about her family history and begins to feel a stronger connection to her Chinese roots. Late one night, Jing-Mei talks with her father about her mother's past. He tells the story of Suyuan, who was once married to a military officer and trekked miles on foot with her two baby daughters and most valuable possessions, while escaping from the Japanese. Exhausted and stricken with dysentery, Jing-Mei's mother was forced to leave her daughters on the side of the road. Before doing so, she strapped her remaining money and valuables to their clothes, along with a note that included her family's address and an offer of a reward for whoever found and took good care of them. In doing so, she hoped that the twins would eventually be returned to the family.

Jing-Mei's father reveals that the names of her two half-sisters, Chwun Yu and Chwun Hwa, mean 'Spring Rain' and 'Spring Flower,' which reflects their close relationship as twins. Through her own name, Jing-Mei also shares a special connection to the twins as 'Jing' means 'excellent' or 'pure essence', and 'Mei' means 'little sister.' In choosing the name of her youngest daughter, Suyuan believed it represented the purest essence of the first-born she had to leave behind. As Jing-Mei contemplates the meaning of her mother's name, which means 'Long Cherished Wish', she realizes that she has a much stronger connection to her Chinese roots and her mother's past than she ever thought.

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