“Two kinds” is a short story authored by Amy Tan. Tan creates the romantic concept of cultural origins and touches on lost ethnic essence to reconfigure and radically undercut notion of ethnic essence. The story is about a mother and daughter who abandon their culture to embrace the American Dream in the hope that anyone in America can succeed. At the root of the story is protagonist’s interpersonal dissonance brought about by the phenomenon of mass immigration. Tan manages to bring out clearly deception of complexities in mother-daughter relationships but focusing on disruptive distance between mothers originating from China before communist revolution and hence have distanced from their native culture for many years. Their American-born daughters are the ones to negotiate with double (twin) burden of their American expectation to succeed and Chinese ancestry. Tan explores this delicate aspect of diverse nation using sophisticated literary tolls. This literary analysis therefore holds the view that cultural conflict promotes rift in personal relationships as evidenced throughout Tan’s work “Two Kinds.”
In the short story, Mrs. Woo encourages Jing-Mei to become a prodigy and meet the American dream of being a successful person in the society. Jing Mei’s mother had a dogmatic belief that America was the place where her daughter could become significant. Therefore, she does this by introducing her to a lot of things so as to live the American dream. First, she wants her to become an actress which fails immensely, secondly, she introduces her to intellectual tests, and this also fails. Lastly, she insists that her daughter had to become a piano prodigy so as to compete with her friend’s daughter who was a chess champion and this also hits the rock. Everything failed because Jing-Mei was not happy about all the things her mother forced her to do because, all she wanted was to be herself and not to compete with someone else. Amy Tan presents a story revolving around the American dream, the journey to self-discovery, and the relationship between mother and daughter.
The short story Two Kinds is centered on the life of a mother and a daughter who are struggling to make a life in America where there is the clash of cultures. Amy Tan presents a scenario whereby there is a struggle to achieve the American dream from an immigrant’s point of view. Mrs. Woo is determined not to let her daughter experience the hardships she had to go through back at home in China, which forced her to move to another country for a better life. A mother and daughter have to struggle to make it in a country with clashing cultures. Amy Tan explores a mother-daughter tension throughout the story as Suyuan Woo strives to make her daughter successful in a brand new country with the new culture. Even though she wished Jing-Mei well, Mrs. Woo did not realize that she was driving her daughter away from her by forcing her to follow what she did not want. This is evident when Jing-Mei confesses, "I didn't have to do what my mother said anymore. I was not her slave. This wasn't China” (Tan 134). She was not happy about her mother’s attempts to mold her into what she was not. Nonetheless, after her mother had died, Jing-Mei decided to follow the American dream and become successful, just like her mother wanted but in her own way.
Apart from the theme of the American dream, Amy Tan presents a protagonist who is struggling to find herself, her identity. The protagonist was a rebellious child caught up between the American culture and the Chinese culture. Moreover, she was caught in what she wanted to be and her mother’s crazy attempts of making her become a prodigy of things she never liked. Jing-Mei wanted to know who she really wanted to be in life, and not what her mother was forcing her to become. This is after realizing that her mother was competing with her friend Lindo on whose daughter was the most talented. In fact, she disappointed her mother because she failed to do everything her mother asked her to do. She decided to be true to herself and not take part in her mother’s competition with Lindo. This is evident when Jing-Mei says, “unlike my mum, I did not believe I could be anything I wanted to be, I could only be me” (Tan 138). However, after her death, Jing-Mei was determined to be successful, just like her mother wished for her. In fact, she is later seen being regretful of saying hurtful things to her mother. Jing Mei grew to a self-realization later on in her life after her mother’s death.
Two Kinds is a short story that presents a relationship between mother and daughter. The story shows the complexities that can be found among mothers from China and daughters who are born in the US. This is the kind of relationship shared by Ni Kan and her mother. Jing-Mei or Ni Kan as she was known by her mother did everything she could to resist her domineering mother’s desires to make her a musician to compete with Lindo Jong’s daughter who was a chess prodigy. Besides, she also tried making her become an actress, which failed abjectly. It is apparent that Jing-Mei was not happy about her mother making decisions for her because she can be seen remembering the events after a period of more than 20 years. Therefore, there was a conflict between mother and daughter in the story.
Apart from the themes, the author uses different tones in the story. For instance, the story starts with an angry tone, but as it ends, the tone changes to an apologetic one. A good example of an angry tone in the short story is the point the narrator gets angry when her mother pushes her to do things she does not want to do. She says, “I wish I wasn’t your daughter. I wish you weren’t my mother.” and finally to “I wish I’d never been born! . . I wish I were dead! Like them.” (Kirsten Dinnal 161). Through these quotes, it is evident that the narrator was using an angry tone towards her mother. The narrator was always arguing with her mother because she was not happy with all she demanded from her. Therefore, the tone at the beginning of the story was an angry tone.
However, as the narration ends, Amy Tan changes the tone of the short story Two Kinds. After her mother’s death, Jing-Mei had no one to argue with, and all she could do was to strive and become successful, as her mother had wished for her. This is evident when the narrator feels guilty for disrespecting her mother in the past. Even though she did not follow all she asked from her, the narrator made it to the top in a strange land away from her mother home. Jing-Mei was happy she had made it to the top the way her mother wanted. She says “It made me proud as if it were a shiny trophy I had won back” (Tan 147). After becoming successful in life, she remembered all her mum wanted her to do, and this made her feel that she was unfair to her. Apart from the different tones in the short story, Amy Tan uses more of dialogue in the story that rhetorical devices. Throughout the story, the author made use of dialogues between a mother and daughter. Most of the passages are dialogues between a mother and daughter.
The purpose of the story Two Kinds is to make the readers realize how important it is for parents for their children to succeed in life. The author through the first person narration explains how the mother in the story pushes her daughter to become a genius. Jing-Mei’s mother wanted to mold her into a musical prodigy (Souris 120). Even though Jing-Mei did not follow everything her mother wanted her to be, she later own made it in life and became successful just like her mother dreamt of her becoming. In addition, the author also exposes how immigrants have to deal with the clash of cultures in a new environment through the lives of Jing-Mei and her mother. Lastly, there is the mother-daughter relationship, which is also presented by the narrator and her mother. Amy Tan does an excellent job in presenting the above ideas in her short story.
Amy Tan in her short story Two Kinds utilizes the themes of the American dream, the journey to self-realization, and the relationship between mother and daughter to illustrate the life of two women, a mother, and daughter who have to survive in a new country and adapt to a new culture. The combination of the themes and the tone of the story brings up a complete story of immigrants living in America. Through a first person narration, Amy Tan tells a story about Jing-Mei’s childhood and her mother’s high expectations of her. Two kinds is a story that outlines the life of a mother and daughter and how they struggled to live the American dream.
Tan, Amy. "Two kinds." The Joy Luck Club (1989): 132-48.
Souris, Stephen. "" Only Two Kinds of Daughters": Inter-Monologue Dialogicity in The Joy Luck Club." Melus (1994): 99-123. Print.
Kirsten Dinnal, Hoyte. Contradiction and Culture: Revisiting Amy Tan's "Two Kinds" (Again). Minnesota Review, 61/62, 2004: 161. Print.