One of the few things that Ma brings to New York with her is her violin. She was a music teacher in Hong Kong, and throughout her life, her violin and music in general have stood in as symbols for her dreams and her happiness with her life, despite the odds. This symbolism is intensified in New York, as playing the violin is the only way that Ma is able to connect with her old self and remember her identity as a musician. The few times per week that she plays violin help Ma and Kim both maintain their hope that their situation will improve. In the epilogue, Kim makes a specific note to mention the piano in her living room. This upgrade to a larger and far more expensive instrument signifies that Kim and Ma have truly made it, and suggests that Ma is able to reconnect with an old version of herself thanks to Kim's success.
Ma's Violin and Piano Quotes in Girl in Translation
How could I have thought that it had been a personal note for me? I burned with shame at wanting so much to be liked, to belong to a circle of friends, that I had picked up something during a test.