Salute to Jing-Mei Woo

In my opinion, we are selfish in our nature. I have written this word in italics because in my sense, it is a relative term. What we consider as selfishness maybe that is not the same way what others think. However, there are some people who can change this term in a good sense. For example, maybe a mother is selfish for her own child. She wants her child to be the best of all; different from other child. However, to the child, his or her mother is the epitome of altruism. We can give up our negative selfishness by turning it positively. Though we are all selfish, we have some inner powers what we can use to change our selfishness into altruism. I got this inspiration from Jing-Mei Woo when I read the chapter “Best Quality” in the novel The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan.

Jing-Mei’s mother wanted her to make a prodigy, but she neglected her mother’s want and expectation. After then, there was a hidden conflict between them. Her mother Suyuan and she never able to understand each other until the crab party where Waverly and his family and boy-friend were invited. It was the climax for this mother-daughter relationship when Jing-Mei chose the bad crab for herself because of the intention of giving her mother the left best crab. Before that Jing-Mei was insulted by Waverly Jong, daughter of her mother’s friend. Waverly treated Jing-Mei in that way that she was in undermining position than her. Later, in dinner, Waverly chose the best crabs for herself and her family without thinking others. However Jing-Mei chose the less good crab because she wanted her mother to give the other good crab. It was the peak moment for Suyuan to understand her daughter’s altruistic nature which is contrast in Waverly’s nature. Then Suyuan understood that maybe Waverly was more intelligent that Jing-Mei, but Jing-Mei’s behavior and nature were far better that Waverly.

It is a great lesson for me to understand the example of ‘selfishness vs. altruism’. We are selfish in many senses, but Jing-Mei’s altruistic behavior has made me to understand that ‘altruism’ is the best quality. We can change ourselves gradually by sacrificing for good things. What we feel by sacrificing something for well-being for someone, we never feel that happiness by showing our selfishness. It is a divine feeling which only altruism can give us.

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Best Quality

I found the chapter, “Best Quality” of the novel, The Joy luck Club awe-inspiring. After discussing the chapter in detail, I realized that everybody has a best quality hidden inside them and they need to discover it by themselves. I thought this lesson will be helpful for those who think that life is full of misery and loss because this chapter mainly talks about discovering our best quality and marching forward for a successful life.

By giving the example of Jing-Mei Woo, Amy Tan, the writer of the novel gives an evocative message i.e., we should be able to believe in ourselves and understand our own best quality. In the story, Jing-Mei always compares herself with others. She thinks everyone is perfect except her, which makes her weak inside. She has a dispute with Waverly, one of the daughters in the novel, about the issues of being talented and wise. Jing-Mei thought that she possessed nothing “good” quality and felt inferior to Waverly. In addition, when Jing-Mei’s mother says to Waverly, one should have innate talent to have in real life, Jing-Mei misinterprets it and thinks that her mother is against her, so she gets more upset. However, her mother is actually blaming herself because by inborn talent she means that she do not have those traits to pass on to Jing-Mei. Hence, this shows that Jing-Mei was going in wrong direction. She always got confused taking decisions and was more inclined to listen to others.

Moreover, she was unaware about her inner quality which was unknown to her. For example, in the Chinese New Year party, everyone picks up a large, delicious-looking crab, while Jing-Mei chooses a small, one-legged crab from the remaining two crabs. This makes her mother understand that Jing-Mei is different from others and is an altruistic person. However, Jing-Mei herself cannot know her best quality hidden inside her, so she always feels hopeless and frustrated about her life. Thus, this shows that everyone possesses a good quality within themselves, but what they need to work at, is to find their own essence and identity. Also, Jing-Mei’s mother gives her a necklace that reminds her of her mother‘s advice, which gradually helps her to understand her life’s importance.

I found the story really inspiring and I learnt from Jing-Mei’s example that we should not always be pessimistic and compare ourselves with others. We should also look at those activities that we excel in. Consequently, this will help us to be positive and remain happy in our lives.
Finally, I would like to ask everyone- what is your “Best Quality” and have you been successful to discover it?

Altruism: The Best Human Attribute

My feelings were fluctuating while reading the story “Best Quality” by Amy Tan. It made me bitterly indignant at first. I was so angry when Waverly was insulting June at her own house. How can she forget that she was a guest there? June, on the other hand, retorted to Waverly’s comments, but could not continue to do that for long. She just quit the conversation. Moreover, her mother supported Waverly when she said that June was not sophisticated. Then I was wondering that how a mother can be like this! She always wanted her daughter to be better than Waverly, now she is admitting with her that her daughter is really not sophisticated! But after clarification in class, I got to know the actual meaning of mother’s comment. She took the insult on her by saying June was not born the way.

Later in the story June’s mother appreciate the way she is. From the very childhood she had been coercing her to be someone special like Waverly. At the end, she realizes June’s altruism when she chooses the crab with the broken leg. On the contrary, Waverly chooses the best crab for herself and her family, which shows her selfishness. She does not even know how to behave like a guest.  Though June was not talented like Waverly, she has better characteristic than her. She has altruism, which is the best attribute of human. Altruism is such a good characteristic that makes our life important to others. That’s why, June’s mother gives her the pendant to make her understand the importance of life. June has always been thinking herself worthless, but she never recognized the precious part of her. Her mother used to wear that pendant, which had touched her skin.  So, she gave it to June so that it touches her skin too and she gets to know her importance. We, ourselves make our life important by our good characteristic. Following others footstep has nothing to do with it.

At the end, the altruistic character of June reminded me of my mother. She always picks the best piece of chicken and fish for my father. After serving my father, me and my sister, she keeps the smallest piece for her. Then suddenly, my father picks his piece and put that on my mother’s plate. After that both of them argue with each other for some time and then decide to divide their pieces in two and share. That’s the way they show their altruism and love to each other.

Selflessness: The Best Quality

In the chapter “Best Quality” of the novel The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, Jing Mei’s mother Suyuan gave the jade pendent as her appreciation of Jing-Mei’s sense of selflessness.  It was during their New Year celebration that Suyuan invited her longtime friend s Lindo Jong and her family. Suyuan cooked eleven crabs for eleven of them and one crab among them had torn off leg. During the dinner time, everybody chose the best and the plumpest, and the last two crabs with faded orange color and torn off leg was left. Jing Mei chose the crab with the torn off leg sacrificing the other one for her mother. Thus, Suyuan realized that her daughter’s thinking was different from others.  She had the sense of selflessness, which can be considered as the best quality a person can possess.

From my point, I also believe that selflessness can be one of the best qualities for a person, but we all are human being, so we somehow tend to choose the best one for ourselves. The greed in us never allows us to forfeit something for someone else. Only few people can sacrifice for other beings. For instance, if we are given a chance to choose a gift, everybody will choose the loveliest one. We will never choose the worst one so that the good one can be taken by the other.  Except in the case of mothers, they are the epitome of altruism. A mother’s love is unconditional and selfless.  They sacrifice everything for their children. For instance, in the chapter “Magpies” of the same novel, An-mei’s mother who was the third concubine of Wu-Tsing sacrificed her own life for the sake of her daughter. Wu-Tsing promised her to give her own household, but his plan was chopped by the second wife. Wu-Tsing was afraid that her mother’s spirit will come to take revenge, so he promised to nurture An-mei and the other son as his own child.

Moreover, I am a Buddhist follower and according to my religion, selflessness is the one of the most fundamental key to attain enlightenment. Desiring for something and selfishness is considered as a sinful act. Therefore, whenever we pray and offer butter lamps, we never pray for our own benefit, we always pray for all living beings to rest in peace. Thus, I agree that Suyuan that selflessness is the best quality a person can ever have.

When Jing-mei is in the Kitchen

After Waverly makes a severe judgment for Jing-mei’s work that has been done for Waverly’s firm, Jing-mei gives all the guests a smile; then, she carries plates and walks to the kitchen. After putting plates in the sink, Jing-mei stands still there…

            I’m suddenly assailed by a strong feeling with the flow of my blood. I can’t tell what it is; perhaps it is anger, shame, or sadness. I know, Waverly must be very proud of herself right now. I can hear her harsh grating laugh from the living room, which makes me sick. However, I have to acknowledge that she was right; I will never be as sophisticate as her. Yes, I won’t. I’m only a small copywriter, so I can only handle small things that those great people don’t care. It seems impossible that I can be as sophisticate – a word she used – as her. How could I be such foolish that expected to confront her by showing my work? I have already known that I’m not a prodigy.

Jing-mei turns on the water and starts to wash dishes. Her eyes become more and more red.

            What does mom think about me now? She always wanted me to be a prodigy when I was young. I still remember the days she asked me to learn piano with Mr. Chong. She must have expected me to win the first prize in the talent show, but I didn’t. After that, she still asked me to play piano, again, I didn’t. Then, everything she expected me to do has turn out to be a failure. I think she must have realized that I’m not a genius at all, that’s why she agreed with Waverly just now. I should be happy because my own mother can accept my nature, right? Why am I feeling so sad? When she said that I must have been born in this way, I felt really hurt.  My mom, who had seized every opportunity to make me genius before, didn’t do the same thing anymore. She even didn’t give me a chance to have another try! Suddenly, I feel that I’ve been abandoned by the world, including my mother. I’m so easy to be satisfied, which determines that I won’t be the best, neither can I make my mother feel proud of me, forever.

            A sound from outside tells me all guests are leaving. I have to wipe my tears away. I know mom is coming, and I won’t let her see my tears.