“The Scar” Story by Amy Tan


The short story, Scar, is about An-Mei Hsu who is the main character. Her mother had deserted the family and married a rich merchant as a concubine and the fourth wife. When her father died, her brother and she were forced to live with their relatives. The grandmother, Popo, was very influential in An-Mei’s life. She tells An-Mei Hsu frightening stories about the importance of living a morally right life as well as being obedient. She does this with the view that her grandchild, An-Mei Hsu, was going to turn out better than her daughter did. All her life she felt worthless and this molded her character in later life. When her mother briefly visits them, An-Mei starts to believe all the bad things that her grandmother told her about her mother (Craig).

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There are various themes evident in the short story, including past suffering and understanding. The author gives a physical description of An-Mei that helps the reader to understand her reasoning and her perspective towards life. This paper will discuss the major themes, and the character An-Mei. It will also focus on the importance of An-Mei in the story and how her influence on other characters.


As a character, An-Mei is important in portraying the suffering that existed in China and the pain people had to go through to overcome this suffering. Despite being deserted by their mother, An-Mei is loving and cares for her. When Popo and her mother are arguing, a pot of hot soup spills on An-Mei and she sustains serious burns on her body (Bloom). This crisis in the story is important because we get to see An-Mei as a loving person. It also explains the physical scars that she carries throughout her life. The crisis also shows An-Mei’s mother as caring and helps the reader to understand some of the reasons that drew her to leave her children. The family members throw her mother out of the homestead leaving An-Mei in a serious condition (Craig). Popo’s understanding of the love that An-Mei had for her mother tells her that if she does not get well, her mother will forget about who she is (Craig). An-Mei shows her strength and determination by recovering from the burns although being left with physical and mental scars (Craig).

An-Mei can be described as an intelligent, perceptive, and sensible person. All through the story, we see her understanding her position and acting according to her conscience. Even after her mother left them, we never see her feeling pity for herself or resigning herself to fate. She understands the reasons that drove her mother to do the things she did and never faults her for her actions (Craig).

The short story focuses on the lack of communication that exists between daughter and mother. Popo disowns her daughter after she deserts her husband and children. This leads to the apparent separation between An-Mei and her mother. The separation between An-Mei and her mother is made worse by Popo when she tells An-Mei that she came from an egg of a worthless goose. As a young child, she grows up carrying emotional and physical scars from the experiences she had. This affects her and the first time she sees her mother she is keen to look at her waiting to see the useless “goose” that laid her. She says that she had a long neck just like a goose (Craig; Bloom).

Themes and stylistic Devices employed

There are imagery and symbolism used in the story. Popo while trying to describe her daughter to her granddaughter uses the word “goose” to show how immoral and evil a person she was. The use of the term goose shows the destitute lives the people are leading and how they try to improve, trying to becoming “swans.” An-Mei’s mother leaves her children in pursuit of a better life, trying to become a swan. When she later comes looking for her children, An-Mei notices her long neck just like a goose and this confirms to her that she is evil and proves the notion her grandmother had inflicted on her. Her mother is seen as a ghost by the family members after she leaves her husband and children. This shows that to them she did not exist and was as good as dead (Craig; Bloom).

The major theme in the story is suffering and understanding. This can be seen when An-Mei states that

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“Not because she came to me and begged me to forgive her. She did not. She did not need to explain that Popo chased her out of the house when I was dying. This I knew. She did not need to tell me she married Wu Tsing to exchange one happiness for another. I knew that as well. Here is how I came to love my mother. How I saw in her my nature. What was beneath my skin. Inside my bones” (Tan 48).

She continues to explain that if a person is to deal with the present then they must deal with their past. This is not easy but is necessary if a person is going to be in touch with their true self.


The short story, Scar, is successful in showing the many hardships An-Mei had to endure when she lived in China. It explains the emotional and physical scars suffered by An-Mei. Suffering as a theme is seen in the lives of Popo, An-Mei, and her mother. The author provides a physical description of An-Mei when she suffers serious burns during an argument between her mother and grandmother. This is important in understanding her view of life as well as the mental and physical scars she carries.


Bloom, Harlod. Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club. New York : Bloom’s Literary Criticism, 2009. Print.

Craig, John. “The Joy Luck Club”. 2000. Web.

Tan, Amy. The Joy Luck Club. New York: Penguin Books, 2006. Print.

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StudyCorgi. (2021) '"The Scar" Story by Amy Tan'. 8 January.

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