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Two Kinds by Amy Tan

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“Two Kinds” by Amy Tan

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A lot of people immigrate to the U.S to pursue the American Dream. The very idea that one’s child can have a better and more successful life and is able to climb up the social ranking is crucial for the American Dream. These parents are willing to lose everything to come to America and give their kids the chance to build a better future. This puts a lot of pressure on the child, and they may just disappoint. This problem between parents’ expectation and what the child wants: these generational differences and different views on the American Dream is thematized in Amy Tan’s “Two Kinds” published in 1989 in the collection of short stories “The Joy Luck Club.”

The short story “Two Kinds” takes place in America; the place where Mrs. Woo believes you can be anything you want. After losing everything in China all her hope lays in America and her only precious daughter, Jing-Mei Woo. In her early years Jing-Mei strived to impress her mother and make her wish about her being a prodigy come true: “In all of my imaginings I was filled with a sense that I would soon become perfect: My mother and father would adore me” (page 2, line 30). She was keen to prove herself and be this perfect, talented child her mother could be proud of. Although, Mrs. Woo really tries to find Jing-Mei’s talent and puts a lot of effort into making her a prodigy, it just doesn’t seem to prove a success: “And after seeing my mother’s disappointed face once again, something inside me began to die” (page 3, line 18). Once Jing-Mei realizes that she can’t satisfy her mother no matter how hard she tries, she becomes angry. Angry with herself and most definitely angry with her mother. All these years of vainly trying to make her mother proud, had built up anger in Jing-Mei and she promises herself that she won’t change for her mother ever again. However, Mrs. Woo is determined to make her daughter a prodigy and had now scheduled piano lessons for her with Mr. Chong. With Mr. Chong being deaf and nearly blind, Jing-Mei sees her chance to defy her mother once again and cuts corners. In hope of finally having made her daughter a prodigy, Mrs. Woo had Jing-Mei play in a talent show. “My mother’s expression was what devastated me: a quiet, blank look that said that she had lost everything” (page 8, line 8). The talent show was a fiasco and Jing-Mei was just waiting for the hammer to fall from her mother. Still, Mrs. Woo insists that she continues her piano lessons and doesn’t react to the incident at all. This proves to be the last straw for Jing-Mei: “Then I wish I wasn’t your daughter (...) I wish I were dead! Like them” (page 9, line 7 & 15). She lashes completely out on her mother; all the anger and frustration results in her mentioning Mrs. Woo abandoned babies. Jing-Mei had had enough and wanted her mother to suffer as she was suffering.

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