Mother Daughter Relationship in Two Kinds by Amy Tan

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I’m not You, I’m Me

For many of us growing up, our mothers have been a part of who we are. They have been there when our world was falling apart, when we fell ill to the flu, and most importantly, the one to love us when we needed it the most. In “Two Kinds” by Amy Tan, it begins with a brief introduction to one mother’s interpretation of the American Dream. Losing her family in China, she now hopes to recapture part of her loss through her daughter. However, the young girl, Ni Kan, mimics her mother’s dreams and ultimately rebels against them.

In the beginning, Ni Kan, is “just as excited as [her] mother” about the idea of becoming a prodigy (749). She imagines herself in different roles and believes that once she has “become perfect,” (749) her parents will approve of her. However, her mother’s obsession becomes extreme when she is forced to take numerous tests on a daily basis. Ni Kan points out, “The tests [are] harder- multiplying numbers in my head without using my hands, predicting the daily temperatures in Los Angeles, New York, and London” (749). Eventually, her mother persuades her into taking piano lessons, which becomes the prime focus of determination.

As the story unfolds, Tan suggests that the piano symbolizes different things. For Ni Kan, it is the unwanted pressure her mother inflicts upon. She argues, “Why don’t you like me the way I am? I’m not a genius! I can’t play the piano” (751). However, her mother sees it as a way for her daughter to become the best. Ultimately, the young girl decides to rebel against her mother’s wishes. During her piano lessons with Mr. Chong, her piano teacher, she learns easy ways to get out of practicing. Ni Kan discovers “that Old Chong’s eyes were too slow to keep up with the wrong notes [she] was playing” (751). As a result, Ni Kan performs miserably in a talent show where her parents and friends from the Joy Luck Club attend. Feeling the disapproval and shame from her mother, she decides to stop practicing the piano.

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"Mother Daughter Relationship in Two Kinds by Amy Tan." 123HelpMe.com. 26 Apr 2018
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As an adult, having her mother offer her the piano once more, Ni Kan appreciates the encouragement and decides to re-tune and care for the piano in memory of her mother. “Two Kinds” is a prime example of a mother trying to live their life through her child. Tan’s use of a common theme, that most parents can relate to, expresses frustrations that both parents and their children feel when expectations are not met.


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