The author emphasizes this when she states “In those days a ghost was anything we were forbidden to talk about” (Tan 291).This is clearly illustrated in the case of An-mei’s mother, who is disowned by her family for running off to be a concubine and refusing dowry from An-mei’s father. An-mei grows up hearing her grandmother constantly talking ill of her mother and she perceives her to be a “thoughtless woman who laughed and shook her head, who dipped her chopsticks many times to eat another piece of sweet fruit, happy to be free of Popo, her unhappy husband on the wall, and her two disobedient children (Tan 292 ).” Tan’s short narrative “Scar” builds on the themes of unconditional love and respect, by using symbolism and figurative language, among other literary elements.
As a child, An-mei’s mother comes to visit and a commotion arises. A giant pot of boiling broth spills and burns the little girl’s chin and neck. The boiling soup is symbolic of the family’s raging anger towards An-mei’s mother for becoming a concubine and dishonoring them. The burn results in a physical scar, hence the title of the short story. However, the term scar is also symbolic since it signifies the emotional harm suffered by the little girl, as well as, the bad memories of her mother instilled in her by the grandmother. The prevalent theme in the short story is that of unconditional love. For instance, in the course of the story An-mei’s grandmother becomes seriously sick and her young girl’s mother comes back. In spite of everything that she had been told by her grandmother and the constant absence of her mother, she grows to love her. This is evident when she says “I came to love this mother as well, not because she came to me and begged me to forgive her” (Tan 294). An-mei recognizes the fact that her mother is not to blame entirely for her absence. She also realizes that her mother never stopped loving her even after being expelled from the community. Tan illustrates this illustration when An-mei says when “Here is how I came to love my mother, how I saw her in my own true nature, what was beneath my skin, inside my bones” (Tan 294). The narrative also elaborates on the theme of respect. This is attributable to the fact that people should respect their elders regardless of the situations they are in. This is shown by An-mei‘s depiction of respect towards her mother when she sacrifices herself to Popo even after disownment. An-mei‘s mom also shows respect to Popo by looking after her even through the last living moments of her life. Respect was an issue that affected many people in China and despite the fact that An-mei did not really know her mother; she respected her and valued her actions towards her grandmother. The author’s narrative skills once more unfold yet another theme of traditions and identity. This is clearly depicted in honoring of Popo by following the ancient and acceptable way. This is done in an effort to save Popo from dying and An-mei's mother shows the respect of traditions and identity by making a sacrifice. Despite the fact that there is no good form of communication between Popo and An-mei's mother, she does not abandon her. In contrary, she cuts off part of her flesh in attempt to enrich Popo’s soup so as to heal her (Tan 295). This theme is further elaborated when An-mei realize the real meaning of the sacrifice that is conducted by the mother. In order to fully determine one's identity and heritage, one should symbolically peel off their