In "Two Kinds," how does the narrator prepare for the talent show?

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In "Two Kinds," the narrator is not sufficiently prepared for her performance.

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After the narrator's mother and her piano teacher, Old Chong, decide to enter her in a talent show, she is instructed to begin work on a Schumann piece. But by her own description, she

dawdled over it, playing a few bars and then cheating, looking up to see what notes...

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followed.

Instead of working to master playing the work, the narrator practices an elaborate curtsy that she will execute at the end of her performance. As she sits down to play the piece in the show, she is thinking about her clothes and hair and how people will applaud for her. Her lack of preparation for the actual playing demonstrates that the piano lessons were not really her passion, and her passive aggression in not practicing the piece prior to her performance is her way of expressing her rebellious feelings toward her mother.

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The narrator prepares for the talent show with her teacher, Old Chong, who is deaf. She is supposed to play a song called "Pleading Child" by Schumann. Instead of memorizing the entire piece, she just plays a few bars and then daydreams. She never learns the whole piece. Mostly what she does to practice is curtsy in an elaborate way and smile to prepare for the talent show. Though she is very excited about the show, she plays a series of wrong notes because she has not practiced thoroughly and is not prepared for the talent show. After the show, she decides not to play piano anymore because she is not a prodigy, and she doesn't realize that practice is what makes someone good at playing the piano. 

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How does the narrator prepare for the talent show?

The short story "Two Kinds" by Amy Tan tells of Jing-mei the narrator of the tale, who cannot seem to live up to her mother's high expectations. Her mother considers her a genius and wants her to manifest it in some way, while the narrator rebels against her mother's strictness and discipline. First, her mother takes her to get a haircut like Shirley Temple, but it ends up looking short and boyish. Her mother then has her practice all sorts of outlandish things, such as reciting the capitals of countries, doing math in her head, and standing on her head without using her hands. Finally, her mother settles on Jing-mei learning to play the piano.

As a piano teacher, her mother hires a resident of the same apartment building named Mr. Chong, whom Jing-mei nicknames Old Chong. He is indeed old and has become deaf and visually impaired. Jing-mei discovers that she can make all sorts of mistakes and Old Chong can't tell the difference, so she doesn't even try to learn the piano properly.

By the time Old Chong and her mother decide that the narrator should enter the talent show being held in the church hall, a piano has been installed in her own living room. However, Jing-mei never attempts to learn to properly play the piece she is supposed to present at the recital.

It was a simple, moody piece that sounded more difficult than it was. I was supposed to memorize the whole thing. But I dawdled over it, playing a few bars and then cheating, looking up to see what notes followed. I never really listened to what I was playing. I daydreamed about being somewhere else, about being someone else.

The only part of the talent show that Jing-mei practices with sincerity and diligence is the curtsy she is supposed to give after her performance. She plays disastrously, of course, profoundly disappointing her mother. Still, two days later, her mother wants her to resume piano practice. Jing-mei rebels and never practices again. Years later, shortly after her mother dies, she has the old piano, which still sits in her father's living room, tuned, and plays the selection she had attempted at the talent show.

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