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What the mother in this excellent short story wants for her daughter is to make the most of the opportunities that living in a country like the United States gives her. Having escaped from a very desperate and dire situation in China, Jing-Mei's mother loves the potential and the opportunity that living in the United States gives her, as the opening lines of this short story reveal:
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.
What she wants for her daughter is to become a "prodigy," so that she can gain wealth and fame through some undiscovered skill. It is this that causes her to drive Jing-Mei to rehearse and to work hard at her piano practice every day, even though Jing-Mei has no real talent. Her mother is obsessed with the idea that if you work hard enough at something, you can be successful in it. In many ways, she has taken the American Dream and swallowed it whole, ignoring reality. It is of course the conflict between what she wants for her daughter and Jing-Mei's own inability to meet those demands that creates the conflict that governs this story.
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