Two Kinds by Amy Tan

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In the short story, "Two Kinds" by Amy Tan, a Chinese mother and daughter are at odds with each other. The mother pushes her daughter to become a prodigy, while the daughter (like most children with immigrant parents) seeks to find herself in a world that demands her Americanization. This is the theme of the story, conflicting values. In a society that values individuality, the daughter sought to be an individual, while her mother demanded she do what was suggested. This is a conflict within itself. The daughter must deal with an internal and external conflict. Internally, she struggles to find herself. Externally, she struggles with the burden of failing to meet her mother’s expectations. Being a first-generation Asian American, I have faced the same issues that the daughter has been through in the story.

"My mother believed you could be anything you wanted to be in America" (491). This ideology inspired Jing-mei’s mother to work hard to create a better life for herself and her family in a new country. The search of the American dream exerts a powerful influence on new arrivals in the United States. However, realizing that they may not achieve the dream of material success and social acceptance, parents tend to transfer that burden to their children. It is a burden where dreams usually fall short of expectations.

In the story, the mother’s belief in this sentiment gave her hope for her daughter to become a prodigy. Therefore, the weight of the dream is left on the first-generation. The belief of endless possibilities is set upon first-generation Americans and Americans alike. From the beginning of the story, the daughter states that “America was where all my mother’s hopes lay” (491). The mother has the be...

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...ies, she goes back to the piano and finds two songs. She begins to play “Pleading Child,” the song that caused the breaking point of her relationship with her mother. This song, with its fast and aggressive melody, best represents the mother’s aggressive attitude towards her daughter. Then Jing-mei plays the song next to “Pleading Child,” called “Perfectly Contented.” It turned out to be lighter and slower. It is a much happier song. Jing-mei’s determination to be herself, “Perfectly Contented,” corresponds with this song. “And after I played them both a few times, I realized they were two halves of the same song.” (499). Like the ying-yang and the songs, Jing-mei’s relationship with her mother may seem disastrous and apart, but together they share a strong bond that makes them whole. Even though the two disagree, like the songs, they form one beautiful song.

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