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Rise and Fall of an Inner Prodigy

An ?angry and powerful? girl glares back at Jing-Mei in the bathroom mirror (Tan 1066). The girl is her newly discovered prodigy: a force that comes from within that could potentially empower her to unlimited heights of personal growth and success. Unfortunately, Jing-Mei, the daughter in Amy Tan?s ?Two Kinds?, only allows her will to manifest into a weapon of ?won?ts? to lash out at her mother with (Tan 1066). She does not think to create goals of her own because her only drive is to prove her mother wrong, act out in hurtful ways, and sell herself short in the process.

Jing-Mei is determined to prove to her mother, self, and family that her mother has no right to have pride and faith in her. After bragging to her sister about how her daughter plays the piano day and night, Jing-Mei?s mother and piano teacher, Mr. Chong, arrange to have her perform at a talent show. Paving the way for her mother?s shame and her own embarrassment, Jing-Mei does not apply herself to practicing and memorizing the piece she is to perform. The night of her performance, she is so taken with how pretty she looks that she forgets she can?t possibly do well. She is even ?surprised when . . . [she] hit the first wrong note? (Tan 1070). Even though Jing-Mei is embarrassed and ashamed, her lasting impression is her mother?s devastated expression and damaged pride. Jing-Mei, sacrificing of her own pride, succeeds in proving her mother wrong to all.

Jing-Mei utilizes her will and perseverance as a weapon to hurt her mother with. After the recital, Jing-Mei ?[feels] disappointed? (Tan 1071). She wants her mother to react and ?start shouting, so that so that [she] . . . could blame her [mother] for her misery? (Tan 1071). Her mother silently retreats to her bedroom, leaving Jing-Mei holding her own shame. For two days, nothing is mentioned about piano practice or the recital. Jing-Mei assumes that she will never have to play the piano again. She is shocked when her mother demands that she stops watching television and to go practice the piano. Jing-Mei summons up her ?inner-prodigy? to loudly and adamantly refuse. Her Mother abruptly shuts off the television and drags her to the piano bench and sits her down. Crying and staring up at her mother, she ?could sense her [mother?s] anger rising to its breaking point . . . [she] remembered the babies . . . [her mother] had lost in China . . . ?then I wish I were dead, like them!?? (Tan 1071). Jing-Mei knows this hostile reference will hurt her mother more than anything else will. Her mother painfully gives up and Jing-Mei never has to play the piano again.

Putting so much effort into not fulfilling her mother?s dreams, Jing-Mei does not have the time to realize that any thought should be put into creating her own dreams. So short sighted is her vision, that she does not realize how her actions are detrimental to her own approach to life. Jing-Mei quickly discovers many ways to not invest much effort into what she perceives as her mother?s dreams. Mr. Chong, who is deaf, watches her fingers play the notes. Jing-Mei is clever and sees a window of opportunity in the discovery that Mr. Chong?s eyes are not much better than his ears. She plays in tempo while hitting wrong notes because she knows she can get away with it. This is the beginning of a lifetime of bad habits and selling herself short. Jing-Mei does not realize that a window of opportunity to not succeed in her mother?s dreams is only a hindrance of her own goals by creating a negative habit and mindset.

Thirty-something Jing-Mei finally sees and regrets the mindset she stubbornly clings to. The choice has always been hers to decide who she will become and what goals she will dream and pursue. Her only goal is to disappoint her mother. Jing-Mei limits herself by acting on what she won?t do instead of what she will do. Her actions lay the foundation for a negative mindset that is shortsighted and lacking confidence, holding her back her whole life. Actions quickly become habit, setting the standard for how one approaches life and its challenges. By creating and perfecting a mindset that acts for all the wrong reasons and lacks confidence, Jing-Mei lacks the ability to identify and seek much of what life has to offer. Her attempts to prove her mother wrong and diminish her pride are successful at the sacrifice of her personal growth and success. She does not realize that a lifetime of actions based on disappointing her mother hurt her much more than her mother; in the end, only proving herself wrong.

Marlowe, Christopher. ?Come Live With Me and be My Love.? Literature for Composition. 5th eds. Ed. Sylvan Barnet, et al. New York: Longman, 2000. 1065-1072.

Rossetti, Christina. ?A Birthday.? Literature for Composition. 5th eds. Ed. Sylvan Barnet, et al. New York: Longman, 2000. 1065-1072.


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