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Amy Tan´s Short Story Two Kinds

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Two kinds  

Growing up in a different country can be though. Especially if you want to improve your social status and make it to the top. It can be a massive burden to have someone’s expectations on your shoulders. Often parents expect their children to achieve the dreams that they never could accomplish. That is a major subject in Amy Tan´s short story “Two Kinds” from 1989. The mother believes that her daughter can reach the big stage and she will do anything to achieve it. In this paper, I will make a characterization of the main character and analyze and interpret the main theme and message.

Firstly, the main character in the text is Jing-mei. In the text, there are only descriptions of her looks from other people. Her mom thinks, she looks like a negro Chinese, and her instructor thinks, she looks like peter pan with the hair cut she has. However, there is a lot more information about how she is on the inside. Jing-mei is in the start very determined and she truly believes that she can become a prodigy. But after a while, she comes to realize she will not become a prodigy and she is devastated. “I saw only my face starring back - I began to cry. Such a sad ugly girl”. It is hard for her to accept, that she is just an ordinary girl and not the prodigy, her mom made her think she is. But once she envisions the thought and discovers that the sensation, she was supposed to be, was a completely different person, she lets go and begins to slack. She still loves her mother very much. As she plays the piano at the talent show, she really tries not to fail, but she cannot manage it in the end. After her performance is done, she has a very hard time trying not to cry, as she sees her mother strict face. That tells us that she still deeply cares for mother and wants to make her proud.

Secondly, there are many themes in the short story. The biggest one is expectations. Her mother believes that Jing-mei can become famous and even though, she clearly does not possess the talent to make it to the top. Her mother loves her daughter and just want the best for her. But her gigantic expectations fall short every time. She clearly wants her daughter to improve and get higher social status than she has. Her mother truly believes the American dream, and by mixing Chinese parenting while getting inspired by the American culture, she thinks she has the perfect way to achieve to do so. But her expectations are way too big and make Jing-mei lose self-esteem because she thinks that only perfect will do.

Finally, there are two messages in the text. The first one can be read in the title. Two kinds. “There are two kinds of daughters, those who are obedient and those who follow their own mind! Only one kind of daughter can live in this house. Obedient daughter” These are the words, the mother shouts to Jing-mei, as she refuses to play the piano after her fiasco. The mother wants her to be the obedient daughter and don´t ever think about what the daughter wants. At first, Jing-mei is obedient but just because she does not want to disappoint her mother. But after a while, she is fed up and just wants to be herself. The mother does not adapt to the American lifestyle where you can do anything you want. Therefore, she still raises her daughter with her Chinese parenting, which in the end makes her believe only the best will do. The second message can be found with the two songs that she plays pleading child and perfectly contented. These two songs represent the Jing-mei. Pleading child is her as a child. She keeps apologizing to her mom for not being perfect. She makes up excuses to herself to why she is not successful for example “I did not believe I could be anything I wanted to be. I could just be me”. The other song Perfectly contended represents Jing-mei as an adult. She accepts that is okay not to be perfect, which was very hard for her to realize as a child. Probably because of her mother enormous expectations.



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