? Instead of enforcing these standards parentsshould let their children be individuals, and have them learn through their ownconscious decisions, and only interfere when the child is headed in the wrongdirection. Of course, family values and morals should be taught to a child at ayoung age to prevent any disastrous situations, and help the child determinebetween right and wrong. Jing-Mei stands for this individualism in the story,and the mother represents that obtrusive unwanted force. Amy Tans’ message inthis passage is clear. Frequently imposing standards on a person throughouttheir life can greatly affect their actions, feelings, and attitudes.
The majorconflict in this story is between Jing-Mei and her mother. Ever since Jing-Meiwas a little girl her mother has believed she could be a prodigy. Her motherwould watch television or read articles in magazines to get ideas from otheramazing children. Then she would test Jing-Mei tirelessly to try and findsomething she would be best at.
At first Jing-Mei seemed to enjoy her mothersintentions, ? In fact in the beginning I was just as excited as my mother,maybe even more so? (386), but as time went on the tests started to get harderand Jing-Mei kept failing repeatedly. After constantly having to see her mothersdisappointed face, Jing-Mei’s attitude and feelings began to change, ?Ihated the tests, the raised hopes and failed expectations. ? (387) She began tosee a new side of herself; a strong powerful girl with willful thoughts and lotsof won’ts, ? I won’t let her change me, I promised myself I won’t bewhat I’m not. ? (387) So throughout the rest of her life she asserted herright to fall short of her mothers expectations, believing that she could neverbe anything she wanted to be, she can only be herself. Jing-Mei is theprotagonist in this story; we read the story through her eyes and her point ofview.
She makes herself seem more like a victim of her mother’s expectationsrather than what she really is, a hurt little girl who does not understand whyher mother does not accept her for who she is. Jing-Mei has to deal with bothexternal and internal conflicts. The internal being her feelings of acceptingwho she is and how she would like to live her life, and the external being hermothers constant pushing of her pseudo images of what she believes Jing-Meishould be. Jing-Mei’s upbringing in a society that highly values individualismand autonomy has had a great effect on her feelings and actions.
This influencehas enabled her to make the decision that she cannot abide by her mother’sexpectations anymore, and it has helped her stand firmly behind it. The motheris the antagonist in the story; she does not realize what she is doing to herdaughter. In her mind she is just helping Jing-Mei to strive for the best, byJing-Mei opposing her it makes her feel that her daughter is ungrateful anddisobedient. This wanting and pushing for the best stems from their currentsituation, of having little money, and from the mother’s past experiences. ?America was where all my mother’s hopes lay. ? (386) This is the countrywere she wants her daughter to have a better life than she had.
She was born inChina where she lost everything: her mother and father, her family home, herfirst husband, and her twin baby girls. She was not regretful of her past, andshe always felt ?things could get better in so many ways. ? (386) The loss ofher daughters and her belief that you could be anything you want to be inAmerica is a strong example of why she is so persistent in making Jing-Meibecome the best she can be. It’s like she is taking all her hopes and dreamsfor three daughters and throwing it all on top of one, as if Jing-Mei had tofulfill the lives of her ?dead? sisters. Although the mother did not presenther motivations in the correct manner, I believe she truly meant no harm, andwas only trying to be a good parent. The atmosphere of the story continues withan array of conflicts.
Jing-Mei is forced to take piano lessons after her mothersaw a Chinese girl, whom resembled Jing-Mei, playing piano on the Ed Sullivanshow. Being that Jing-Mei had no interest in playing piano she lazily went abouther lessons, and got away with it, because she had a deaf teacher. Jing-Mei didthis despite the fact that her mother had traded housecleaning services for herlessons. Not knowing of her daughter’s disobedience, Jing-Mei’s motherbragged about her one day after church ? If we ask Jing-Mei wash dish, shehear nothing but music. Its like you can’t stop this natural talent. ? (390)This made Jing-Mei even more determined to put a stop to her mother’s foolishpride.
By not practicing and being determined to disappoint her mother, Jing-Meiis humiliated one evening after she tried to play the piano at a talent show. Even though Jing-Mei continuously wanted to disappoint her mother that night hermother’s face devastated her. This situation lead to their final conflict. Notgiving up on her, Jing-Mei’s mother tried to get her to return to her lessonsone afternoon.
After throwing a tantrum Jing-Mei said the words that would endtheir quarrels for good, ? Then I wish I’d never been born! I wish I weredead! Like them. ? (393) After saying this to her mother everything stopped,her hopes, her dreams everything she wanted for her daughter ended in thatsingle moment. Jing-Mei and her mother are both at fault in this story. Insteadof trying to please one another, their heads were clouded with their ownselfishness. They destroyed that mother-daughter bond they should have shared.
It is unfortunate that Jing-Mei realizes what she has lost after it is too late,and her mother has already passed on. They were the same, Jing-Mei and hermother, but blinded by their own needs they never realized ? they were twohalves of the same song ?