“Two Kinds” by Amy Tan

Today in class we read and discussed a short story by Amy Tan titled “Two Kinds”. The plot of the story is about a mother and her daughter. They are of Chinese origin, and the mother has emigrated to America some years ago with her husband. Her memories of China aren’t the best, as she has lost everyone who has ever been important to her, including her twin daughters who died at birth. Therefore, she has experienced many unfortunate things in life.

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Amy Tan- author

 

I have to admit that the story made a very good impression on me. I understand both the mother and the daughter, and can actually relate to both of them. Starting off with the mother- moving to America was surely a big and hard step for her, and she doesn’t have other possibilities for earning money than by cleaning houses. However, she has hopes for her daughter, to achieve something more and become a prodigy. She tries everything, but, unfortunately, it doesn’t go as planned. In the beginning, the child was obedient and did as was told, but after some time, she understood that there wasn’t any good in what her mother had in plan. She started to stand up to what she was told and didn’t want to do anything of what her mother had made her to. Unfortunately, the woman stubbornly waded into her goal of having a perfect daughter, and the next thing she came up with was an idea for piano lessons. That didn’t go well at all as we might imagine.

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At this point, I have to agree with the daughters point of view. It was very unwise of the mother to force the child into doing so many different things she didn’t enjoy doing, just for the sake of being a prodigy. I hate that it didn’t give her food for thought to stop trying to put so much pressure on the girl. It’s not the right thing any parent should do. But should parents have any say at all in their child’s choices? In my opinion yes. The role of a parent is to guide their children through life and help them make the right decisions. I’m sure they have a lot more experience and know much better what to do in a certain situation, but they should never constrain anything on their son or daughter.

Maybe if Jing-mei’s mother would encourage her to do things she was actually interested in rather than fulfilling her own dreams, she would have had a much better influence already since she was little. Unfortunately, she grew up hating herself for not being the person someone expected her to be; hating her mother for having to do what she said and probably thinking that there was something wrong with her, as she couldn’t be decent at anything in particular.

 

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“Only two kinds of daughters, she shouted in Chinese. Those who are obedient and those who have their own minds!”

In order not to end up this post in such a negative way, I wanted to mention a few aspects of the significance of the story “Two Kinds”. The ending makes us reflect on the whole story and lets us interpret it in a different way. After her mother’s death, Jing-mei begins to realize what her mother had wanted for her. She looks back over the music and discovers something that she hadn’t noticed before. The song on the left-hand side of the page is called “Pleading Child”; the one on the right, “Perfectly Contented.” She realizes that the two titles are two halves of the same song. This is connected by the theme of the tension between mothers and daughters. The mothers and daughters in this book are separated by many factors — age, experience, ambition, and culture. The “pleading child” cannot be “perfectly contented” because she cannot resolve her difficulties with her mother — and herself. In her struggle with her mother, she is struggling with her own identity. But she certainly has found herself by now and the events from her past have shaped her into the person she is today, which is surely an independent, strong and confident adult.

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