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Free Study Guide-The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan-Free Booknotes Online
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SECTION IV

Jing-Mei Woo - A Pair of Tickets

Summary

Jing-Mei and her father have purchased “a pair of tickets” and are on their way to China to meet the lost twins, which will fulfill Suyuan’s dream. As they near the country of their heritage, Jing-Mei begins to feel pensive, sentimental, and strangely Chinese. She thinks about her mother’s passing remarks about the twins and her own shock when she learned that they had been located. She also thinks about the fact that she could not bring herself to write and tell the twins that Suyuan was dead. Instead, she asked the ladies of the Joy Luck Club to write the twins about her death.

In China, the first stop for Jing-Mei and her father is at Guangzhou to meet Jing-Mei’s grand aunt. The old lady and her family come to meet them at the station and give them a rousing welcome. The affection and warmth that they display touch Jing-Mei deeply. She quickly makes friends with her cousins and poses for photographs with them. At the hotel, everyone shares their memories, filled with joy and sorrow.

Later that night, Canning Woo tells Jing-Mei all about Suyuan’s painful escape from war-torn China and the manner in which she had to abandon the twins. Suyuan walked for days, trying to outrun the invading Japanese. Feeling miserable, hungry, and exhausted and with bleeding feet and hands from the journey, Suyuan felt she could not go on. Concerned for the welfare of her daughters, she tried to give the twins to someone who would protect them, but no one would help her. Finally she stuffed her few valuable possessions into the clothing of the infants and left them by the road while she went in search of food. The weak and feverish Suyuan passed out along the way; when she woke up, she was in the back of a truck filled with refugees and missionaries. The little girls were not with her, and she would not see them again. Later, when she met and married Canning Woo, they returned to China to find the girls, but were unsuccessful.

A poor country couple found the twins on the side of the road and raised them. They, too, had often tried to find the girls’ parents, but were not successful. It was not until after Suyuan’s death that the connection was finally made. Canning also tells Jing-Mei that her name has special meanings. Jing-Mei literally means that she is pure and that she is a younger sister. Suyuan chose the name so that her lost sisters would be a part of her. He also explains that the name Suyuan has a special meaning; it literally translates as “long-cherished wish” or “long-cherished grudge.” Suyuan’s wish had always been to find the twins in order to explain what had happened to her so that they would not have a grudge. Now Canning and Jing-Mei are on their way to make the wish come true.


Jing-Mei and her father next head to Shanghai to see the twins. On the airplane, Jing-Mei feels tense and apprehensive. Upon their arrival, they are greeted by Jing- Mei’s two older sisters. Jing-Mei immediately sees her mother in them. Then when she looks at the pictures of all three of them together, she realizes Suyuan’s spirit is in all three, bonding them together. Jing-Mei feels complete, connected, and in touch with her heritage at last.

Notes

This chapter is a fitting conclusion to the novel. Although Suyuan is not reunited with her lost daughters before her death, she passes on the desire to meet them to Jing-Mei. As a result, she and her father travel to China for a reunion with her older sisters. On the journey, Jing-Mei understands and accepts the importance of her Chinese heritage. She also realizes that Suyuan is a strong bond that holds her and her two sisters together. Recalling the opening parable of the story, this chapter shows that the “swan” has been passed on from mother to daughter. Even though Jing-Mei has changed into a different appearance, becoming Americanized, her Chinese heritage is finally important to her.

The concluding chapter is also a fitting finale in other respects. Jing-Mei opens the novel and closes it. In the beginning she has suffered a loss - the death of Suyuan. In the conclusion, she is made whole again by meeting her mother’s other daughters and realizing the importance of what Suyuan had tried to teach her -- there is strength and value in being Chinese. During the course of the novel, the other daughters (Lena, Rose, and Waverly) learn this same lesson.

The chapter presents a vivid contrast between modernized America and traditional China. Throughout the book, Amy Tan has shown America as a modern world filled with magnificent high-rise buildings, a fast pace, and a love of money and what it buys. She also indicates that American people are in such a hurry to get ahead that they abandon tradition and ignore relationships. Waverly Jong, Lena St. Clair, Rose Jordan, and Jing-Mei Woo are all affected by this American lifestyle.

In contrast, Amy Tan presents China as a complete opposite in this chapter. She describes the quaintness of the place with its “scores of little shops, dark inside, lined with counters and shelves. And then there is a building; its front laced with scaffolding made of bamboo poles held together with plastic strips. Men and women are standing on narrow platforms, scraping the sides, working without safety straps or helmets.” China is neither imposing nor technologically perfect, but the Chinese people are not in a rush to get ahead, like the people in America. They take time to be warm and friendly, as seen when they “clasp each other’s hands” and when the relatives greet Jing-Mei and her father at the station. Seemingly unconcerned about appearances, the Chinese express their emotions openly and display their affection spontaneously.

This closing chapter also serves to tie together the loose ends of Suyuan’s history. Both Jing-Mei and her father remember episodes from Suyuan’s past that have not been related earlier. Jing-Mei gives information that she has learned about the twins through their correspondence, and Canning Woo relates the pathetic plight of Suyuan as she left Kweilin and lost the twins. It is a touching tale of a young woman trying to do the best thing for her children.

The autobiographical element of the entire novel is also finalized in this closing chapter. Amy Tan traveled to China to meet her own half-sisters. The only difference is that her trip was made when her mother was still alive, but terribly ill. The reunion with her sisters was extremely touching, and Amy explained that she felt as if she had found what she had been searching for all along. In her words, “It was instant bonding. There was something about the country that I belonged to. I found something about myself that I never knew was there.” Jing-Mei, like Amy, understands herself and her heritage better after visiting China.

In truth, the final chapter reads like a fairy tale. For the first time the reader learns the details of Suyuan’s abandoning her infants on the road. The reader also learns of their rescue by a godly couple and their final reunion with their sister, fulfilling Suyuan lifelong wish. It is a dramatic and poignant ending to a marvelously sensitive novel about Chinese mothers and their Americanized daughters.

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