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amy tan

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Amy Tan’s “Two Kinds” is an autobiographical look into her childhood that shows the conflict between Tan and her mother, the difference between old and new cultures, the past and the present, and parents’ expectations vs. reality. Couples of opposing elements comprise the basis of the entire story; to another extent even the title itself, “Two Kinds,” shows the friction that Tan creates. The strongest argument that Tan suggest is that this may not only be a look into her own life, rather it may be the struggles that every child and parent goes through as they come into age. As the story advances, Tan’s journey of struggle through the relationship with her overbearing mother is unraveled. A sense of emotional growth and mutual respect can be noted between Tan and her mother as the story moves on. A strong examination of “Two Kinds” defends this theory.
“Two Kinds” takes place in San Francisco during the 1950’s when a large immigration movement was taking place. Tan begins the story by taking the role of the innocent child that all readers can relate with. You can see a mental picture of Tan’s mother poking and repeating the Chinese words “Ni-Kan, You Watch!” We immediately feel attached and sorry for Tan, being the daughter of an unruly mother. Tan wrote what many of us felt growing up with overbearing parents who expected the world out of us, when we just wanted to go outside and play with the other kids. In a sense we were mentally attached with Tan as she is compared to child actors who she cannot possible compete with. Tan feels as though her mother doesn’t take her own opinions and worries to heart, rather she feels her mother is only concerned about Tan becoming famous so that her mother will be better off. These strong emotions that we feel from Tan also spark something inside most readers to immediately jump on the side of Tan rather than see past these disguised attempts of motivation. Later on in “Two Kinds” Tan’s mother comments on her rugged hair, saying that she “look like Negro-Chinese.” Tan’s emotions come out as she says to herself “as if I did this on purpose.” This small line in the story makes a large impact as we can see in our minds a mother dragging her child into the bathroom washing her hair out and yelling at her for something that the child could not control. In a sense, Tan is almost pulling out our se...

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...rs that she never wanted to do. It is here that the reader notices that the forceful motivation that her mother performed was only a desperate attempt to save Tan from committing the same mistakes that her mother probably did before she came to America. Though, Tan never realizes this until the very end of the story when she is all grown up and her mother buys her a piano. The passing of this piano is a symbolic point in the book when Tan realizes that her mother only tried to help her all of these years. And closure is placed upon the tumultuous relationship between Tan and her mother while she plays the song “Perfectly Contented.”
The emotions and change in behaviors that Tan embraces are the growing pains of a child lost in her own adolescence. We see Tan’s relationship with her mother fall during her pubescent years, when most of our relationships with our parents fall. The relationship that Tan tries to make with the reader is almost a recommendation on how the readers should take their own parents advice into consultation while growing up. Despite the harsh form of motivation that her mother practiced, she only wanted the best for her daughter.
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