Narration in Amy Tan’s “A Pair of Tickets”

In “A Pair of Tickets,” Amy Tan employs first person narration to show Jing Mei, the protagonist’s development and self-discovery as she journeys to China. The omnipresent point of view helps to show that Jing Mei’s attempt to forge relations with the past is vital for progression and self-discovery. Tan’s narration style of moving back and forth or recursion and progression, through the narrator’s point of view, harmonizes the past and the present into a unified sequence. Through omnipresence, the reader is invited to journey with the female protagonist as she discovers and acknowledges her Chinese heritage as prophesied by her mother.

In “A Pair of Tickets,” Amy Tan uses first person narration to fuse the past and the present. Through recursion and progression, the narration style helps to fill the gaps in the narrative by resolving the mysteries of the characters’ past. For example, through recursions, the reader is able to know about the abandonment, rescue and eventual upbringing of Jing-Mei’s half-sisters. Through this omnipresent point of view, the story describes a previously unknown history. Jing-Mei is unaware of the whole story regarding his sisters’ rescue but through Canning Woo’s narration, she gets valuable insights into it. Therefore, the omnipresent point of view in narration offers historical information crucial for the protagonist’s self-discovery.

The first person narration enables readers to identify with the protagonist’s journey of finding her Chinese heritage. To demonstrate that she is not wholly Chinese, Jing-Mei states: “I understand only Mandarin but can’t speak it that well” (Tan 185). Here, she explains the difficult she faces trying to connect with her Chinese roots. With first person narration, a reader can identify with the pain and happiness of Jing-Mei throughout her journey. Towards the end of the story, Tan switches the narrator to Jing-Mei’s father through flashback. It is through this latter’s narration that the reader is looped into the past of Jing Mei’s mother. Canning Woo’s narration provides justifications for his wife’s forced abandonment of her children on the roadside while fleeing the Japanese invaders.

Tan uses the omnipresent point of view to return to the past so as to help Jing Mei find her Chinese roots. In “A Pair of Tickets,” the protagonist struggles to deal with identity conflict—between being American and Chinese. She says that she has “never really known what it means to be Chinese” (Tan 179). The reason for Jing-Mei’s doubts of her identity is because she was born and bred in America. Tan tells the story from Jing Mei’s point of view so that readers can understand her predicament. After her father explains the story of her half-sisters in Chinese, Jing Mei is able to forge a connection with her mother’s homeland. The narration offered by Jing Mei’s father serves as the turning point or revelation for the protagonist. She changes her feeling and attitude towards her mother while she believes she has a strong bond with her sisters. According to Wood, the narration helps the protagonist to determine and appreciate the past so as to make sense of the present and the future (83, 96). For this reason, the shift in narration from one character to another aids in developing the theme of self-discovery.

Tan switches the narration from present to the past with each transition serving the point of enriching the protagonist’s Chinese connection. Jing Mei’s narration and explanation of the letters written by her aunts sets the stage for the journey. Jing-Mei also provides vital family history through flashbacks. The reader is able to understand the role that Jing-Mei’s mother played in her life and the reason for her travel to China. Furthermore, her father’s narration offers the context for Jing-Mei to identify with her Chinese culture as her mother once predicted. Therefore, Tan uses the first person narration to demonstrate the changing landscape of Jing-Mei’s feelings towards her Chinese roots. When the story begins, Jing-Mei fears her reunion with her Chinese family because she feel like she lacks a personal connection with them. However, as the story comes to the end, she understands her mother’s struggles. When she eventually meets the long-lost sisters, Jing-Mei’s transformation is confirmed. She says: “Together we look like our mother. Her same eyes, her same mouth, open in surprise to see, at last, her long-cherished wish (Tan 195). This personal connection is achieved because of the omnipresent point of view employed by Tan. The narrator transitions from the present to the past through daydreaming and flashbacks to fill the gap between these two planes of existence. Eventually, Jing Mei acknowledges her Chinese heritage through the reunion explained in first person narration.

In conclusion, “A Pair of Tickets” by Amy Tan employs first person narration to depict Jing Mei’s struggle and eventual acceptance of her Chinese heritage. The omnipresent point of view serves the purpose of connecting the past and the present to help the protagonist’s self-discovery. Tan’s narration style of recursion and progression, through first person narration, harmonizes the past and the present into a unified sequence. In essence, this point of view invites readers to journey with Jing Mei as she discovers and accepts her Chinese roots.