The Duality of the American Dream in Amy Tan’s Two Kinds
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For millions of immigrants, America has been seen as the land of opportunity where anyone could become anything he or she wanted to be. A family that believes strongly in the American dream can be found in Amy Tan’s short story, “Two Kinds.” The story centers around the daughter of a Chinese immigrant who desperately wants her daughter to become successful. In the story, the author shows the difficult lives immigrants face when moving to a new culture. In this short story, the theme shows the protagonist’s conflict with her mother on the type of daughter her mother wants her to be. The author establishes the theme of how difficult mother-daughter relationships can be through characterization, setting, and symbolism.
Primarily, Tan establishes the theme of the story through characterization. The protagonist, Jing-mei, finds it difficult to live up to the high expectations her mother has set for her. After seeing so much disappointment in her mother’s face, Jine-mei “look[s] in the mirror above the bathroom sink and when [she] saw only [her] face staring back – and that it would always be this ordinary face – she began to cry” (Tan 2). This bring Jing-mei and her mother into conflict with Jing-mei eventually screaming at her mother that “‘[she] wish[ed] she were dead. Like them’” (Tan 8). As she matures, Jing-mei becomes a little more level-headed; she then understands her mother only wants the best for her. Through diction and language, the author creates a character that is immature in the beginning but learns respect when she matures.
Besides characterization, Tan uses setting to exemplify the theme of the short story. The story occurs in San Francisco after the mother flees there “in 1949 after losing everything in China: ...
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...hildren the things they need to succeed.
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