The story helps us appreciate that two factors that shape us are heredity and environment. Jing-mei’s mother influences her because she tries to teach her a specific set of values that she hopes will be successful. Her mother, in turn, is influenced by her own environment. She is an immigrant so she brings along a set of expectations for success in America. She is also influenced by media and the neighborhood.
Jing-mei’s mother wants her to be successful. This is why she decides to make her a prodigy, or a child genius.
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.
At first, Jing-mei is willing to go along with the prodigy experiment, and even thinks it is fun. It turns out to be a bust, through. Jing-mei has no hidden instant talent, and she doesn’t really understand that she has to work at something to get good at it.
Jing-mei’s mother sees the kids on television and wants her daughter to be like them.
I could see why my mother was fascinated by the music. It was being pounded out by a little Chinese girl, about nine years old, with a Peter Pan haircut. The girl had the sauciness of a Shirley Temple. She was proudly modest, like a proper Chinese child.
Jing-mei and her mother do not communicate very well, which is what leads to the argument and the lack of follow-through with the piano lessons. Jing-mei thinks her mother just wants her to be perfect. Her mother wants her to learn to work hard. In the end, Jing-mei does seem to be influenced by her mother, and her mother’s influences, because she looks back on this and takes the piano.