Jing-mei is stubborn, frustrated, and intelligent.
Jing-mei is stubborn because she tries hard to become a prodigy, even though she does not have any innate talents in the things her mother is trying to get her to do. She is also stubborn because she refuses to learn the piano, even though it’s not that hard.
But I was so determined not to try, not to be anybody different, and I learned to play only the most ear-splitting preludes, the most discordant hymns
She gets frustrated because she her mother does not listen to her. When her mother tries to get her to play the piano after she messes up at the recital, she thinks she will be able to stop. Unfortunately, her mother does not listen, and pushes her too far. She blows up at her.
Jing-mei is intelligent. She thinks she is dumb because she does not automatically be a prodigy, but in fact she has talent and intelligence.
So maybe I never really gave myself a fair chance. I did pick up the basics pretty quickly, and I might have become a good pianist at the young age.
It is only because of her mother’s constant prodding that she purposefully does not succeed.
Jing-mei’s mother is persistent, lonely, and sad.
Jing-mei’s mother tries very hard to help give her daughter a better life. She has had a difficult life, coming from China where her other children died as babies. She just wants her daughter to succeed, because she thinks anything is possible in America.
My mother believed you could be anything you wanted to be in America. ..You could become instantly famous.
Yet Jing-mei’s mother is also lonely. She does not have a good relationship with her daughter. She does not communicate with her as she should. Although Jing-mei somewhat understands what her mother is trying to do, she really doesn’t empathize with her because her mother never really expresses her hopes.
Jing-mei’s mother is sad when her daughter intentionally hurts her, telling her she wishes she was dead.
[Her] face went blank, her mouth closed, her arms went slack, and she backed out of the room, stunned, as if she were blowing away like a small brown leaf, thin, brittle, lifeless.
At this point, her mother seems to give up. She can’t believe that Jing-mei would intentionally try to hurt her like that.
Mr. Chong is deaf, out-of-touch, and reminiscent.
Mr. Chong is an old, deaf, listless piano teacher. Jing-mei’s mother trades housecleaning services with him so that he will teach her daughter the piano.
She had talked to Mr. Chong, who lived on the first floor of our apartment building. Mr.Chong was a retired piano teacher…
Mr. Chong is not a very good piano teacher, because he does not notice that Jing-mei is playing wrong and doesn’t care.
Our lessons went like this. He would open the book and point to different things, explaining their purpose: "Key! Treble! Bass! No sharps or flats! So this is C major! Listen now and play after me!"
Mr. Chong also likes to reminisce. He breaks down into fits of revelry, remembering when he could hear.
He taught me all these things, and that was how I also learned I could be lazy and get away with mistakes, lots of mistakes...And Old Chong kept conducting his own private reverie.
Mr. Chong is not the best piano teacher for Jing-mei because she is too stubborn. She does not want to learn. She does not tell her mother that he cannot hear her, and is not a good teacher.