The short stories of Flannery O’Connor’s 1965 “Parker’s Back” and Amy Tan’s 2006 “A Pair of Tickets” both delve on the theme of a person’s lifetime resolve to stand by what he or she believes to be honorable. This act of resolve is achieved by the character’s decision to remain loyal to his or her stated beliefs despite of numerous hindrances to act otherwise, and which is observable throughout the story. Such is the case in O’Connor’s Sarah Ruth Cates and in Tan’s Suyuan, wherein each of them exhibited an unwavering determination not to be influenced by life’s trials and tragedies, and in the process be successful in realizing their individual goal: Sarah’s firmness in upholding her religious beliefs, and Suyuan’s motherly longing to search for her missing daughters. In this regard, this paper will argue that both Sarah and Suyuan acted the way they believe to be noble and moral, and that both of them have remained loyal to their aspiration of being unbendable in their objective of imposing their goals.
Firstly, it is apparent in O’Connor’s story that Sarah is a profoundly religious woman who has been deeply ingrained in the Southern church doctrine. There are many instances in the story that prove this point, such as her father being a pastor at a local church, her insistence on not having premarital sex with O.E. Parker, her hatred for tattoos, and her resolve that O.E. Parker’s tattoo of Jesus is a form of idolatry. Sarah states this matter-of-factly when she stresses, “Idolatry!…Enflaming yourself, with idols…I don’t want no idolator in this house!” (O’Connor, 1965, p. 529). Clearly, Sarah’s attitude regarding religious images, the fact that her belief on this had never changed despite of having an idolatrous husband, is an evidence of her strong resolve to stand by what she believes to be right. This is especially relevant when considering that O.E. Parker had been excited and was very sure that Sarah will adore his new tattoo of Jesus on his back. Apparently, despite of the excellent craftsmanship of the said tattoo, O.E. Parker was not successful at influencing Sarah because she has a strong standard for her religious beliefs and that not even her own husband can bend or compromise her standard about God.
Sarah’s reaction towards O.E.’s tattoo proves that she is a woman with unyielding determination to uphold the things she believes to be moral and correct. This indeed is a testament to her resolve, given that despite of her love for her husband she is still able to fight for her Christian convictions and lambast O.E. for his idolatrous ways. This has been suggested in the part where it states, “Parker was too stunned to resist. He sat there and let her beat him until…large welts had formed on the face of the tattooed Christ” (O’Connor, 1965, p. 529). Moreover, Sarah’s beating of her husband also seems to imply that for Sarah her religion is more important than her own husband. Truth to tell, such is Sarah’s strength of character that not even her husband can break her will, so much so that at the end of the confrontation, the proud O.E., “—who called himself Obadiah Elihue—leaning against a tree, was crying like a baby” (O’Connor, 1965, p. 530). Hence, this reaction of Sarah regarding O.E.’s tattoo is a verification of her strength as a principled woman.
Similar to the strong resolve exhibited by Sarah, Suyuan too has proven that she is a woman with unquestionable mettle in behaving in an honorable way. This is especially evident when Suyuan was faced with no other recourse but to abandon her babies by the roadside because of the invading Japanese forces. Here, it must be noted that her reasons were not selfish or self-serving, in that she had left all her material possessions with the babies, praying that their would-be foster parents will take care of them as their own children. Needless to say, Suyuan was already near-death when she left her babies and continuing her journey with her babies would surely result in the deaths of all three of them, thus making her decision an act of ultimate motherly sacrifice.
Suyuan’s heroic deed mentioned in the preceding paragraph is an evidence of her resolve to provide the best care for her children even in very perilous times, and even at the expense of her own death. This can be seen in the lines describing Suyuan’s ordeal at the very instance when she decided to leave her babies on the road: “…she walked down the road, stumbling and crying, thinking only of this one last hope, that her daughters would be found by a kindhearted person who would care for them” (Tan, 2006, p. 177). Indeed, if Suyuan were a mother possessing of lesser resolve, then she would not have dared to leave all her material wealth by the roadside during wartime, with no security of food, shelter and safety from the invading Japanese forces.
Perhaps it can be said that Suyuan is telling her readers, through her action of abandoning her babies, the kind of mother she is. Indeed, all the hardships she had experienced convey to readers of her staunch resolve to always ensure her daughters’ safety and wellbeing regardless of existing environmental situations. However, while it may be true that Suyuan had failed to spend her life with her two babies, it can still be argued that the reason for this was beyond her capabilities. After all, it was war time when this occurred, so that certain situations and dilemmas had forced Suyuan to take drastic steps just to ensure the safety of her two babies.
Both Sarah and Suyuan are women whose fortitude have remained steadfast even in the face of external influencing factors and even graver danger. They remained true to their self-perceived mission of acting morally and honorably irrespective of harm that may come their way. As such, for Sarah her fortitude was measured through her religious conviction in spite of having an unreligious husband, while for Suyuan it is by sacrificing all she had for the safety of her babies. These women resolve to act in the best way made it possible for them to each be successful in their respective goals, and in the process live meaningful lives.
The Complete Stories. Retrieved from
Tan, A. (2006). The Joy Luck Club. Retrieved from