The protagonist of the story is a girl named Jing-
Mei. Her mother becomes the antagonist because
of her insistence that Jing-Mei find a hidden
Her mother wants Jing-Mei to be a successful and
stand out in some respect. Initially, Jing-Mei was
excited about this idea as well. The conflict arises
when Jing-Mei tires of her mother’s insistence on
testing her every night on various subjects.
Jing-Mei decides that her mother will not change her. She is
constantly disappointing her mother. Jing-Mei confronts her
mother and asks her why does she not like her just as she is.
Her mother slaps her.
Her mother decides that Jing-Mei could be a piano prodigy.
An old man in the apartment complex is a retired piano
teacher. The mother will clean his apartment for lessons for
Jing-Mei. But Jing-Mei quickly learns that the old man cannot
hear. She pretends to practice and play. However, since the
teacher cannot hear, she really just plays whatever she wants
The music teacher and her mother decide to enter Jing-Mei in a talent
show. She has played it but has never really memorized or even
listened to herself as she played it. Despite her lack of practice, Jing-
Mei is overconfident. Since she did not know the music, her
performance was a disaster. She makes a fool of herself and
embarrasses her mother.
Her mother does not give up and expects her to continue practicing,
but Jing-Mei refuses to continue with the piano practice or lessons.
She tells her mother that she wishes that she were dead. Jing-Mei
knew exactly what to say to hurt her mother. Jing-Mei’s mother had
other babies that died. After this confrontation, her mother gives up
on her having a special talent.
Jing-Mei goes forward through the years. She explains that she often
disappointed her mother. Unlike her mother, she did not believe that a person
could do anything that he wanted to. She and her mother never discussed the
piano fiasco again. To spite her mother, she never did her best in anything.
Psychologically, the thing that hurt Jing-Mei the most was that her mother gave
up on her.
On her thirtieth birthday, the mother gives the piano to her daughter. Jing-Mei
asks if she would miss it.
‘ no, this your piano, she said firmly. Always your piano. Only one can play.
You pick up fast. You have natural talent. You could have been genius if you
want to. You just not trying,’ said my mother.
When her mother dies, Jing-Mei has the piano tuned. She goes to the
parents’ apartment to help her father go through her mother’s things.
She finds herself very sentimental about her mother and the things
that she valued.
Finally, Jing-Mei sits down at the piano and looks at the piece that she
was supposed to play at the talent show. She noticed that the piece on
the right side of the page was called “Perfectly Contented”. On the
other side was the piece that she attempted: “Pleading Child”. She
realizes that the two pieces are two parts of the same piece. The song
symbolically represents Jing-Mei’s life. If only her mother were there,
she would tell her what she had learned.