In the short story “Two Kinds”, Amy Tan uses the narrator’s point of view to share a mother's attempt to control her daughter's dreams and ambitions. Tan`s short story is an example of how differing personalities cause struggles between a parent and child. Children often fall victim to a parent trying too hard or expectations being too high, and in the case of "Two Kinds," we see Jing Mei’s mother trying to live her life through that of Jing Mei. The outcome of her mother’s actions soon leads the narrator into feeling tension within herself, and between herself and her mother.
In the beginning, we find Jing-Mei’s mother convincing her that she “can be prodigy…” (Tan 346) and that she “can be best anything. ” (Tan 346). The way in which her mother portrays becoming a prodigy as such a wonderful thing for their family, Jing Mei quickly falls into her trap. At first Jing-Mei is, “just as excited as my mother, maybe even more so. ” (Tan 347). The fact that Jing Mei is feeling “just as excited as her mother”; allows her mother to have a better opportunity to create the ideal identity for her daughter.
At first Jing Mei is very willing to cooperate in what her mother wants her to do, but soon it gets too much for her to handle. The expectations get higher, and Jing Mei becomes resentful and unwilling. This is a very crucial point in the story because this is when Jing Mei figures out that it’s her life, and not her mothers. She thinks to herself, “I won’t be what I’m not. ” (Tan 348). Even though Jing Mei begins to rebel against her mother’s wishes, this doesn’t change the fact that her mother keeps on pushing her to become something’s she is not.
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This is when the piano gets introduced into the story. Jing Mei’s mother gives all her time and effort into being able to provide for her daughter. She exchanges cleaning services in return for piano lessons, so that hopefully her daughter will make her proud one day. The same outcome is received from the piano lessons. Jing Mei refuses to put her best foot forward and to try something new, even though her mother has given up so much just so her daughter could succeed.
Before her mother dies, Jing Mei is given the piano by her mother. She describes the piano as a "shiny trophy". This metaphor clearly indicates her feelings about the piano and about the conflicts with her mother over her piano playing. Jing Mei takes the piano as a "shiny trophy" because in the end she has won it, on her own terms, and not by her mother’s high expectations. Jing-Mei’s mother has had an immensely difficult life, having lost her mother and father, her husband, and her two twin babies.
In this respect we as the reader see that she is worthy of sympathy. The fact that she has gone through so much in her life, it is natural that she would want to make up her losses through Jing-Mei. In the beginning we are given only an objective view of Jing Mei’s mother, however, it is near the end, where we see her deepest feelings described. We see that her breaking point is when Jing Mei shouts “I wish I were dead! Like them” (Tan 353). This is the breaking point because we finally she Jing Mei’s mother give up on her daughter.
It finally reaches the point where it does not matter how much her mother tries, in the end her daughter will never be who she has ideally portrayed her to be. At the end of Tan’s short story “Two Kinds”, we as the reader see that Jing-Mei’s mother is conveyed as somebody that will do anything for her daughter, whether it is working day and night in order to provide her daughter with as much tools to succeed in life, to telling her that she could have done anything she wanted if she had tried.
Jing-Mei characterizes her mother as an ideal parental figure by showing how much hope she has in her daughter. Her mother’s only wishes are to give her daughter more opportunities than she had growing up in China. And by doing this she shows that no matter how many conflicts there is between a mother and daughter, a mother will never give up hope on her daughter. She will cherish her for who she is in the end.
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