A Pair of Tickets by Amy Tan is a story about a Chinese woman June May who is travelling through China. June May’s family moved to the United States and settled in San Francisco, California. Unfortunately for her, her mother passes away while she is in her thirties. She embarks on a fact finding mission to find his true roots. On this mission, she is lucky to meet her family members some of whom include her twin stepsisters. As June May and her father embark on their train journey to China, the physical and symbolic setting of the story is established by the author. Amy Tan uses symbolism, allegory and imagery to integrate the theme that June May is “becoming Chinese” to other elements of the story.
Symbolism is first displayed in the journey that June May engages in from America to China. This is a journey of self-enlightenment that June May uses to help her discover her real roots. It is important to note that individuals must always consider their past or experiences of their family members in order to understand themselves. The letters that June May touches that were sent to their mother from China symbolizes the voice from the past. Moving from America to China is a culmination of what her deceased mother had told her one day. This was her “long-cherished wish” (Tan 249). She had said to her, “Someday you will see…. It’s in your blood, waiting to be let go” (Tan 237). The trip from California to Guangzhou was a trip to her past to help her connect to her real roots. The other form of symbolism that has been used in the story is through color. The use of color helps in highlighting the changing seasons. The seasons are highlighted by the yellow, green and brown colors. The yellow color that appears during the first phase of the train journey is used to symbolize the uncertain future that June May faces as she ventures into an unknown territory. The earthly brown color symbolizes the fact that June May is being attracted to the soil from which she came from. With each passing mile, June May is able to better discover her real roots. The green color symbolizes the fact that June May is going to start a new life. The discovery of her real roots will help her determine who she really is. Another form of symbolism is the difficulty that June May has to undergo during the winter in order to blossom in the summer. Like flower bulb that have to endure a cold winter season in order to blossom in the spring, June May’s journey during winter journey is not easy. The reunion of June May’s father and her aunt who have not seen each other for 60 years symbolizes her time stands still. This is another symbolism of the Kodak camera that only has the ability of capturing what has just developed instead of capturing the whole story. After June May’s father and her aunt have embraced one another, May takes a photo of them using her Kodak camera. The father and aunt reflect on their developing images and try to reconstruct and recapture the years that they have stayed without seeing one another. Another form of symbolism is in the food that Jung May and her sisters order while in the hotel. While her sisters order fries and burgers, June May was looking forward to a real Chinese meal. This symbolizes change that June May had yearned for during the journey. Had she been in China for another mission, she probably would have ordered for an American dish. However, in this case, she wanted to feel Chinese. The other form of symbolism can be found in the names of characters. For example, June May’s mother was called Suyuan (Dong 21). In Chinese, this meant “long cherished wish.” The name symbolizes the wish that June May’s mother had that one day she would find her twin daughters she had during her first marriage but who were lost during the Second World War. The twin sisters names are Chwun Yu and Chwun Hwa. In English, these names mean Spring Rain and Spring Flower. Due to the association with nature, their names symbolize the indivisibility of the twin sisters. June May’s Chinese names were Jing-Mei. Jing symbolizes something excellent. Mei in English means younger. June May’s name symbolizes the excellent young sister that the twin sisters had.
A Pair of Tickets is a story that involves family members (Faulkner 516). The author uses the world sister, mother and father frequently to show that the characters come from the same family. Blood has also been allegorically used to highlight the relationship that the characters had. In western culture, blood is usually associated with red and symbolizes death, sacrifice or bloodline. In the context of this story, blood can be used allegorically to mean cultural identity. For example, June May does not have a good understanding of her Chinese identity at the beginning of the story. She did not understand when she was told that once she was born a Chinese, she could not help but feel and think Chinese (Tan 120). Even though she was old enough, 36 years of age, she did not understand how it feels to be a Chinese. However, after visiting China, she later on came to realize the experience. She says that Chinese is in their family and blood. On the other hand, red color in Chinese is used to signify happiness, joy and celebration. In this case, blood can be used to allegorically symbolize the joy and happiness that June May had after she discovered her true identity. On reaching China, June May’s make-up comes off due to the heat in China. This is another allegory that can be used to highlight the fact that June May removed her western mast and put on the new face; that is the Chinese identity that is in her blood (Chopin 477).
Apart from symbolism and allegory, there are other fictional elements that have been used by Amy Tan. One of them is the change of setting. There is a change of setting when June May travels from the United States to China. Through this journey, June May is able to reach the land of her forefathers. She has a feeling that she has never had before. She says, “The minute our train leaves the Hong Kong border and enters Shenzhen, China, I feel different. I can feel the skin on my forehead tingling, my blood rushing through a new course, my bones aching with familiar old pain and I think, my mother was right. I am becoming Chinese” (Tan 120). In this case, the story grows out of its natural setting. This is shown in the fact the journey to China done by June May is one that helps in both internal and external discovery. She finds China but also finds part of her heritage. The American and Chinese setting in the play help in highlighting the double culture that June May can be associated with. Visiting China helps her better understand how she is Chinese; however, this visit also shows her how she has been influenced by American culture. For example, she does not believe that Communist China can have very beautiful hotels. She keeps on saying, “this is communist China” (Tan 127). Furthermore, she understands the Chinese language but due to English influence, she cannot speak Chinese well. Her height and complexion also makes her stand in the crowd as an American.
In conclusion, Amy Tan uses symbolism, allegory and imagery to integrate the theme that June May is “becoming Chinese” to other elements of the story. This is shown in the setting of the play and the visit that June May has in China from America. It is always important for individuals to understand their cultural identity for them to know who they really are. This will also help them understand how different cultures have helped in shaping them. By visiting China, June May achieved two objectives. The first objective is that she discovered her real roots. The second one is that the visit helped her achieve her deceased mother’s objective of meeting her twin-sisters.
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Faulkner, William. “A Rose for Emily.” The Norton Introduction to Literature: Shorter 11th
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