Success and Failure in Two Kinds by Amy Tan Essay

Success and Failure in Two Kinds by Amy Tan Essay

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Amy Tan, a child of Chinese immigrants, wrote the story “Two Kinds”, telling the tale of a Jing-Mei’s rebellion against her mother’s desire to change her into a prodigy. As Jing-Mei’s mother continually tells her she does not try hard enough to succeed, the conflict between Jing-Mei and her mother escalates. Jing-Mei grows more stubborn, making every effort to resist her mother, and the relationship devolves into a standoff where mother and daughter both refuse to budge from their position. “Two Kinds” shows the irony in Jing-Mei’s relationship with her mother; while her mother believes Jing-Mei does not try hard enough to succeed, Jing-Mei succeeds in her struggle for identity by refusing to become the person her mother wants.

The story opens with a brief synopsis of Jing-Mei’s mother’s past. As a Chinese immigrant fleeing from war, her mother leaves behind everything: “her mother and father, her family home, her first husband, and two daughters, twin baby girls.” (Tan 206) As a resident in America, Jing-Mei’s mother does not wallow in misery but instead looks forward to a life with limitless boundaries, honestly believing that “[y]ou could become instantly famous.” (Tan 206) Brent tells us that Chinese immigrants view America as a true land of opportunity and that tradition demands a daughter’s obedience to her mother (1). With a history steeped in traditional Chinese culture and a spirit of adventure, her mother decides Jing-Mei will fulfill this dream and become a child prodigy.

At first, the anticipation of riches and fame propel Jing-Mei into cooperating with her mother, persuading Jing-Mei in the belief she can attain perfection. She imagines herself in several wonderful images, each colorful and immensely sati...


... middle of paper ...


...elf. In a broader context, Tan says our tendencies to mold our children into our ideal image of success often works against the universal struggle to find one’s identity. Television, powerful advertising, clever marketing, and the myriad opinions of everyone we know swirl around us in a cacophony of conflicting messages, often drowning our pleas for time and space to get to know ourselves and find contentment in being what we are and not what someone else wants us to be.


Works Cited

Tan, Amy. “Two Kinds”. Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing. Longman. Boston. 10th ed.

Brent, Liz. "Overview of 'Two Kinds'." Short Stories for Students. Ed. Ira Mark Milne. Vol. 9. Detroit: Gale Group, 2000. Literature Resource Center. Web. 13 Mar. 2014. Document URL
http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CH1420031606&v=2.1&u=tel_a_tbr&it=r&p=LitRC&sw=w

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