The Joy Luck Club
How we cite our quotes:
And after that I began to see terrible things. I saw these things with my Chinese eyes, the part of me that I got from my mother. I saw devils dancing feverishly beneath a old I had dug in the sandbox. I saw that lightning had eyes and searched to strike down little children...And when I became older, I could see things that the Caucasian girls at school did not. Monkey bars that would split into two and send a swinging child hurtling through space. (II.2.8)
Lena sees part of her identity as handed down from her mother. Part of this identity includes her "Chinese eyes," which see freaky things…Lena’s intense and dark imagination comes from her mother’s side.
And after seeing my mother’s disappointed face once again, something inside of me began to die. I hated the tests, the raised hopes and the failed expectations. Before going to bed that night, I looked in the mirror above the bathroom sink and when I saw only my face staring back – and it would always be this ordinary face – I began to cry. Such a sad, ugly girl! I made high-pitched noises like a crazed animal, trying to scratch out the face in the mirror.
And then I saw what seemed to be the prodigy side of me – because I had never seen that face before. I looked at my reflection, blinking so I could see more clearly. The girl staring back at me was angry, powerful. This girl and I were the same. I had new thoughts, willful thoughts, or rather thoughts filled with lots of won’ts. I won’t let her change me, I promised to myself. I won’t be what I’m not. (II.4.17)
Here Jing-mei begins to determinedly believe in her own ordinariness and refuses to let her mother mess with her identity.
"Why don’t you like me the way I am! I’m not a genius! I can’t play the piano. And even if I could, I wouldn’t go on TV if you paid me a million dollars!" (II.4.32)
Jing-mei’s determination to be ordinary manifests itself as hostility towards any kind of self-improvement.