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Review of “Two Kinds” by Amy Tan

The story of “Two Kinds” by Amy Tan narrates about a Chinese girl who finds it hard to recognize her identity, who is in disagreement with her mother who believes that she can achieve great things in the USA. Her mother motivates her to be a musical expert, to challenge her friend who is a chess champion. While being influenced by the exposure to media and westernization, such as hairstyles, she wishes to maintain her true identity. The book is an excerpt from “The Joy Luck Club,” published in 1998. It revolutionizes the perceptions about the view cultures hold over each other and mainly describes how different the narrator wants to progress. The narrator is a nine-year-old girl who is expected, by her mother, to have a comprehensive experience of life in America (Ellefson 432). She is rebellious and develops a negative attitude to her mother’s view of a path of development, as she refutes the idea of moving abroad.

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Several thematic concerns are depicted in the story revolving around the views of Jing-Mei and her mother, with the issue of the desire to find life abroad forming the core. The dream of being abroad in the USA makes the narrator’s mother believe that anything is possible, prompting her to motivate her daughter to move overseas to seek better opportunities. She is obsessed with developing material possessions, which ideally leads to being rich and famous, in contrast with her life set in the world war, which epitomized suffering and a dysentery strike (Ewaidat 5). She is open about what her daughter should be, provided she becomes the best at it. The theme of identity and self-acknowledgement is an issue of conflicting views. In the context, it draws to the divisions on agreements between them, where the narrator, Jing-Mei, wants to create the assertion of being herself. She refers to her dead half-sisters to push her mother into giving in to her needs to define herself strongly.

The theme of moderation and a similar approach is portrayed in how Jing-Mei and her mother balance their needs. It defines how the narrator ought to behave and project herself to progress into life in America and become a prodigy. It emanates from her setting overly mighty expectations for her daughter, which were mainly impractical. Her mother lacks the perception of moderation as she only acknowledges the existence of two definitions of daughters: respectful and defiant ones.

In addition, there is the theme of talent and effort, and the narrator’s mother does not seem to define the existence of a difference between talent and hard work as a factor that counts in bringing in success. Whereas Jing-Mei did not have any positive attitude towards anything she did, she did not put hard work as an essential factor to bring in success. Jing-Mei wishes to have a path of development that follows her definition for the standards that success builds on.

Several elements of literary styles and effects are employed to depict the various aspects of the story. Symbolism is represented by the facial expression of Jing-Mei when she fails her piano test. Jing-Mei cannot achieve the expectations of her mother and scratches her head in action, seen as erasing her mothers’ standards in her perception of self-dependency and expression. She wishes to be a prodigy and define what is expected to attain her full potential. The piano is used to represent her mother’s perceptions about success for Jing-Mei. She possesses a critical aspect of understanding the views and the need to present her thoughts and opinion ideas (Ford 158). Jing Mei’s action of reserving some old Chinese dresses shows her acceptance of her mother’s perceptions of her. Finally, the song, a recital, showed her struggles at the tender ages and the current situational environment where she seems to be searching for a healthy balance.

There is an imperative use of the foreshadowing regarding the activities that revolved around Jing Mei’s needs and that were in disagreement with her mother’s opinions on her future. The title, Two Kinds, is used to capture the claimed existence of two kinds of daughters. Some heed the rules as set out, and those who hold the same in total disregard. Both are reflected in Jing-Mei, and how she depicts the changes that revolve around development over time (Rashid 35). The two pieces of music further represent it, “Pleading Child” and “Perfectly Contented,” which Jing-Mei notices that they have a relationship after playing for some time. The language choice in the story varies across characters, with Jing Mei’s mother using what is viewed as broken English while herself using native English. It creates a verbal conflict to show that they developed in different worlds.

To sum up, the story “Two Kinds” by Amy Tan gives a classic-type interest to progress on the view of love and hate entwinement, which pivots on identity and opinion differences. It has historical aspects that show the deep-fetching relations between mothers and daughters regarding future perceptions. It depicts the limitations in cultures and the psychoanalysis of the conceptual view that other cultures have better standards and definitions than others.

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Works Cited

Ellefson, Elias. “AMY TAN:(1952).” A Reader’s Companion to the Short Story in English. Routledge, 2013. 430-435.

Ewaidat, Hala. “Reconstructing the Mother-Daughter Relationship: Lydia Davis and Amy Tan.” AWEJ for Translation & Literary Studies 5.1 (2021).

Ford, S. (2021). The Diffusion of Identity: A Study of Three Contemporary Thai Short Stories through the Lens of Western Narrative Conventions. Manusya: Journal of Humanities, 24(1), 146-163.

Rashid, Akm Aminur. “Why don’t you like me the way I am? I’m not a genius”: A Mistakable Understanding of a Child Prodigy in Amy Tan’s Two Kinds, the Symbolic Crisis of Identity in the Specific Contexts of the American Dream.” IOSR Journal Of Humanities And Social Science (IOSR-JHSS) 19.1 (2014): 33-36.

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