As you read this story for the first time, remember that it is a story about a the conflicts between a mother and her young daughter. The narrator is the daughter, who is now an adult. Also keep in mind that it is a story about a Chinese-American family who has recently come to America after experiencing great hardships in China. Make sure that you take notes as you read, just as defined in Chapter One.
Choose one of the following five questions, and write a thoughtful, insightful response. Use supporting quotes from the story (properly cited and quoted) to illustrate your claims.
1) Throughout the story, Tan provides small, yet significant details about the family’s economic status. List some of these details, and then think about how these details contribute to the character of the mother and daughter.
2) Also pay attention to some of the cultural aspects of the story. List some of these details. How do they affect the relationship between the mother and daughter? How do the conflicts illustrate differences between Chinese and American cultures?
3) In the second paragraph, the mother tells the daughter that she can be a prodigy. Look up the word “prodigy” in the dictionary. Is it possible for the daughter to learn how to be a prodigy? Later in the story, the mother asks the daughter to be her best. Is doing your best different than being a prodigy?
4) In the third paragraph, the narrator mentions that her mother had come to San Francisco in 1949 after losing everything in China. Research what was happening in China in 1949. How does the mother’s past losses influence her character and her relationship with her daughter?
5) At first, the narrator is excited to pursue the opportunity to become a prodigy. When does the narrator give up? Why does the narrator give up?