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The Short Story “Two Kinds” by Amy Tan

Relationships between parents and children can be extremely complicated and made even more so by various external factors. Many generational misunderstandings stem from the strikingly different cultural contexts in which the children are raised compared to their parents. This essay will consider Amy Tan’s story Two Kinds and argue that cultural differences in the upbringing of the mother and daughter and their cultural roles influence their actions.

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Two Kinds revolves around the relationship between a first-generation Chinese immigrant mother and her second-generation immigrant daughter. The mother wants her daughter, Jing-Mei Woo, to be “the right kind of prodigy” (Tan, 2016, p. 106). The parental expectations of the mother are shaped by her upbringing in China. Meanwhile, Jing-Mei Woo, born in the United States, fails to understand her parent and why she is so demanding.

The mother’s actions are guided by her expectations of how Chinese children should behave. When Jing-Mei refuses to play piano, her mother states that “only one kind of daughter can live in this house,” an obedient daughter (Tan, 2016, p. 115). She wants Jing-Mei to use the opportunities available to her in America but expects her to be “a proper Chinese Child” (Tan, 2016, p. 109). She tries to monitor her daughter’s path to success, a practice characteristic of many Chinese parents (Kim et al., 2018). Thus, the mother attempts to raise Jing-Mei to be an obedient child, failing to realize what her daughter wants.

Jing-Mei should be viewed as the product of two distinct cultures: the Chinese and American ones. At first, she tries to be the perfect child that her mother and father would adore. But as the strict maternal monitoring grows and her mother’s plan to make her a prodigy becomes more consistent, she starts to rebel and vows not to let her mother change her, saying, “I won’t be what I’m not” (Tan, 2016, p. 108). Overall, it can be argued that Jing-Mei adopted the role of the American child, refusing to be a submissive child.

Two Kinds is the story about the parent-child relationship being substantially influenced by the family’s immigration. The protagonist’s mother expects her daughter to be an exemplary child who encompasses all the characteristics of an obedient Chinese child. Meanwhile, Jing-Mei adopts the role of a rebellious child, refusing to be the perfect daughter her parents want her to be and becoming the second kind of daughter, the one who thinks for herself.


Kim, S. Y., Schwartz, S. J., Perreira, K. M., & Juang, L. P. (2018). Culture’s influence on stressors, parental socialization, and developmental processes in the mental health of children of immigrants. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 14(1), 343–370. Web.

Tan, A. (2016). Two Kinds. In The joy luck club. Random House.

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