The Joy Luck Club Questions and Answers
by Amy Tan

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What does June learn from “Perfectly Contented” and “Pleading Child” in The Joy Luck Club?

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June knows that the piece she played so long ago in the disastrous recital is called "Pleading Child," but she did not realize that there is a companion piece on the opposite page of her sheet music; the other piece is called "Perfectly Contented." She compares the two songs, realizing that "Child" is slower and shorter, while "Contented" is longer and faster, with a lighter melody. They share a similar flowing rhythm, and she suddenly understands that they are actually two halves of one song. We can see these two halves of one song as a symbol of June's own emotional experience regarding the piano and the conflicts it represented between herself and her mother. For a long time, she was the pleading child, even as an adult. However, when her mother finally offered her the piano, as an adult, she told June that she "could be a genius if [she] want[s] to" as though it were "a fact that could never be disproved." June was struck by this, and she did not take the piano right away, though, because whenever she would see it in their family room, "it made [her] feel proud, as if it were a shiny trophy that [she] had won back." Now, after her mother's death, June sees that she has finally reached some level of contentment. Her mother was not trying to change her, to force her to be something she is not, but, rather, her mother was trying to get her to work her hardest and be the best version of herself possible. Her resentment seems to fade away, and she no longer needs to plead for love or acceptance.

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