In every family, parents have, at one point, imposed their failures and expectations on their children, and in worse cases have even tried to live through their children. At times, it can be in the best interest of the child to have a parent motivate them in a specific direction, but as in this story it can sometimes backfire, and the child can be left with feelings of disapproval and questions of “self-worth. ” Instead of enforcing these standards parents should let their children be individuals, and have them learn through their own conscious decisions, and only interfere when the child is headed in the wrong direction.
Of course, family values and morals should be taught to a child at a young age to prevent any disastrous situations, and help the child determine between right and wrong. Jing-Mei stands for this individualism in the story, and the mother represents that obtrusive unwanted force. Amy Tans’ message in this passage is clear. Frequently imposing standards on a person throughout their life can greatly affect their actions, feelings, and attitudes. The major conflict in this story is between Jing-Mei and her mother. Ever since Jing-Mei was a little girl her mother has believed she could be a prodigy.
Her mother would watch television or read articles in magazines to get ideas from other amazing children. Then she would test Jing-Mei tirelessly to try and find something she would be best at. At first Jing-Mei seemed to enjoy her mothers intentions, ” 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 harder and Jing-Mei kept failing repeatedly. After constantly having to see her mothers disappointed face, Jing-Mei’s attitude and feelings began to change, “I hated the tests, the raised hopes and failed expectations. 387 She began to see a new side of herself; a strong powerful girl with willful thoughts and lots of won’ts, ” I won’t let her change me, I promised myself I won’t be what I’m not. ” 387 So throughout the rest of her life she asserted her right to fall short of her mothers expectations, believing that she could never be anything she wanted to be, she can only be herself. Jing-Mei is the protagonist in this story; we read the story through her eyes and her point of view.
She makes herself seem more like a victim of her mother’s expectations rather than what she really is, a hurt little girl who does not understand why her mother does not accept her for who she is. Jing-Mei has to deal with both external and internal conflicts. The internal being her feelings of accepting who she is and how she would like to live her life, and the external being her mothers constant pushing of her pseudo images of what she believes Jing-Mei should be. Jing-Mei’s upbringing in a society that highly values individualism and autonomy has had a great effect on her feelings and actions.
This influence has enabled her to make the decision that she cannot abide by her mother’s expectations anymore, and it has helped her stand firmly behind it. The mother is the antagonist in the story; she does not realize what she is doing to her daughter. In her mind she is just helping Jing-Mei to strive for the best, by Jing-Mei opposing her it makes her feel that her daughter is ungrateful and disobedient. This wanting and pushing for the best stems from their current situation, of having little money, and from the mother’s past experiences. America was where all my mother’s hopes lay. ” 386 This is the country were she wants her daughter to have a better life than she had.
She was born in China where she lost everything: her mother and father, her family home, her first husband, and her twin baby girls. She was not regretful of her past, and she always felt “things could get better in so many ways. ” 386 The loss of her daughters and her belief that you could be anything you want to be in America is a strong example of why she is so persistent in making Jing-Mei become the best she can be.
It’s like she is taking all her hopes and dreams for three daughters and throwing it all on top of one, as if Jing-Mei had to fulfill the lives of her “dead” sisters. Although the mother did not present her motivations in the correct manner, I believe she truly meant no harm, and was only trying to be a good parent. The atmosphere of the story continues with an array of conflicts. Jing-Mei is forced to take piano lessons after her mother saw a Chinese girl, whom resembled Jing-Mei, playing piano on the Ed Sullivan show.
Being that Jing-Mei had no interest in playing piano she lazily went about her lessons, and got away with it, because she had a deaf teacher. Jing-Mei did this despite the fact that her mother had traded housecleaning services for her lessons. Not knowing of her daughter’s disobedience, Jing-Mei’s mother bragged about her one day after church ” If we ask Jing-Mei wash dish, she hear 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 foolish pride.
By not practicing and being determined to disappoint her mother, Jing-Mei is 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 her mother’s face devastated her. This situation lead to their final conflict. Not giving up on her, Jing-Mei’s mother tried to get her to return to her lessons one afternoon. After throwing a tantrum Jing-Mei said the words that would end their quarrels for good, ” Then I wish I’d never been born! I wish I were dead! Like them. 393 After saying this to her mother everything stopped, her hopes, her dreams everything she wanted for her daughter ended in that single moment. Jing-Mei and her mother are both at fault in this story. Instead of trying to please one another, their heads were clouded with their own selfishness. 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 her mother, but blinded by their own needs they never realized ” they were two halves of the same song. “