In The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan explores the relationships between Chinese immigrant mothers and their daughters who have grown up in America. Waverly Jong has a relationship of continual conflict with her mother, Lindo, partly because they are rather similar characters in their competitiveness and their desire to dominate. Lindo is proud of her daughter's intelligence and her achievements as a child chess prodigy, but she tends to express this pride in an overbearing manner, as though she is the agent of Waverly's success.
This quotation is the beginning of a passage in which Waverly meditates on her relations with Lindo and realizes that they have, for many years, been based on misconceptions. Although she is an adult now, she says,
I saw what I had been fighting for: It was for me, a scared child, who had run away long ago to what I had imagined was a safer place.
Waverly's anger with her mother is based not only on her experiences as a child, but on her continuing to think of herself as one. Rather than allowing herself as she is now to react to and try to understand the old woman her mother has become, she remains defensive, because she remains stuck in the role she occupied as a child. It is this revelation that allows Waverly to change her relationship with Lindo, as they have both changed over the years.