Suyuan sees America as a symbol of the American Dream. In other words, America is a land of boundless opportunity. A person can be anybody in America, achieve anything, and become rich and famous if that is desired. This sentiment is narrated to readers by Jing-mei in the very first...
Suyuan sees America as a symbol of the American Dream. In other words, America is a land of boundless opportunity. A person can be anybody in America, achieve anything, and become rich and famous if that is desired. This sentiment is narrated to readers by Jing-mei in the very first paragraph.
My mother believed you could be anything you wanted to be in America. You could open a restaurant. You could work for the government and get good retirement. You could buy a house with almost no money down. You could become rich. You could become instantly famous.
Suyuan has bought into the mythic belief that anybody can attain the American Dream if he/she simply works hard enough. She has bought into it because she can cite examples of people that have achieved the dream. Unfortunately, she is blind to the far bigger group of people that have tried for the dream and failed. Suyuan's belief that anybody can become rich, famous, and powerful in America is what motivates her to push Jing-mei into becoming a child prodigy of any type. Initially, Jing-mei buys into the process. She works hard for her mother, and she does want the fame and fortune.
In fact, in the beginning I was just as excited as my mother, maybe even more so. I pictured this prodigy part of me as many different images, and I tried each one on for size. I was a dainty ballerina girl standing by the curtain, waiting to hear the music that would send me floating on my tiptoes. I was like the Christ child lifted out of the straw manger, crying with holy indignity. I was Cinderella stepping from her pumpkin carriage with sparkly cartoon music filling the air.
Eventually, reality sets in for Jing-mei. She learns that a child prodigy is a rarity, and she learns to despise her mother's look of disappointment after each failed attempt. It eventually gets to the point where Jing-mei decides to intentionally sabotage each attempt. She figures that a person can't fail if he/she doesn't try.