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The Joy Luck Club

by Amy Tan

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Why does Jing-Mei refuse piano lessons in The Joy Luck Club?

Quick answer:

Jing-mei refuses to take any more piano lessons after her disastrous performance at the talent show because she is embarrassed, tired of being forced into activities, and tired of trying to become a prodigy.

Expert Answers

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In Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club, Jing-mei's mother really wants her daughter to be a prodigy at something. Suyuan believes that in America, anything is possible, and that Jing-mei will become extremely talented and even famous at something just because of that possibility.

As the family is watching The Ed Sullivan Show one evening, a young Chinese girl comes on to play the piano. Suyuan thinks that she has now found just the right thing for Jing-mei: piano lessons.

Jing-mei does not want to take piano lessons. She knows full well that she is not a genius, but her mother insists, and Jing-mei begins lessons with Mr. Chong, who is mostly deaf. Jing-mei actually doesn't learn much. She makes all kinds of mistakes and plays all kinds of wrong notes, yet Suyuan remains certain that Jing-mei is a true talent at the piano.

Then comes the talent show. Jing-mei plays horribly, and she knows it. People try to be polite, but the extremely embarrassed Jing-mei makes up her mind that she will not play the piano ever again. Her mother tries to force her, and the two end up in an argument. Jing-mei says that she will never be the kind of daughter her mother wants. The piano lessons end at this point. Jing-mei is tired of trying to be something she is not, but she is also a little rebellious from being pushed too hard.

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