Analysis of the Novel Two Kinds by Amy Tan: The Value of a Healthy Parent-Children Communication

April 27, 2022 by Essay Writer

Summary

The story of Two Kinds starts off June, the daughter of Suyuan, explaining how her mother left China during the Chinese Communist Revolution, having lost everything, including her own children. Throughout Jing’s childhood, Suyuan has constantly been wanting her daughter to become a prodigy, as she believes that in America anyone can become anything, though this could also be for Suyuan as living though her own child. However, Jing, not wanting to be some sort of prodigy like what her mother wants her to be, she silently rebels against constantly, never paying attention to piano lessons or the tests and quizzes she has to take.

Eventually, this all comes to a head when after Jing didn’t do well at a piano recital, her mother wanted her to continue, only for Jing to say she wished she was dead, just like the twin daughters Suyuan left for dead in China, causing this to finally stop. Eventually, after Suyuan passed away, while Jing was cleaning around her mother’s apartment, she saw the piano that was given to her, and plays it after so many years (Tan).

In Two Kinds, the title of the story comes from what Suyuan says in the climax of the conflict in the story. In that, Suyuan says to June, “Only two kinds of daughters,” she shouted in Chinese. “Those who are obedient and those who follow their own mind! Only one kind of daughter can live in this house. Obedient daughter!”

The same quote also holds major significance in the story, especially with the relationship of the main characters. Suyuan wants her daughter to become a prodigy in this ‘land of opportunity’ that America is, and is constantly making her take tests, classes, and lessons to make her daughter that. However, Jing, not wanting to be the prodigy that her mother wants her to be, she silently resists her mother constantly, never letting her mother have her way.

Conflict

The man vs man conflict with Suyuan and Jing is the most important conflict in the story, with it having a deep and lasting impact to the characters. Suyuan, an immigrant from a war-torn China who has lost everything, wants her daughter to become a success and famous, and in a sense, live the childhood she never could through her. Meanwhile, Jing, Suyuan’s daughter, feels like her mother isn’t letting her live her own life, and that she is being forced to do all these things to be something that she isn’t a natural born prodigy.

This leads to a conflict with the mother and daughter as they both try to mold Jing in their own way, with Suyuan wanting her to be a success, while Jing herself just wants to be herself. It is even shown that at first, she also wanted this, Jing saying, “In fact, in the beginning I was just as excited as my mother, maybe even more so.” (Tan). But as she kept disappointing her mother by not being one, she started to change, and with this, she started to fight back against what her mother wanted her to be.

Another form of conflict that Jing feels throughout the story is the idea she will never be special, that she will always be normal and disappointing to her mother, as said, “ Before going to bed that night I looked in the mirror above the bathroom sink, and I saw only my face staring back – and understood that it would always be this ordinary face – I began to cry. Such a sad, ugly girl! I made high – pitched noises like a crazed animal, trying to scratch out the face in the mirror.” (Tan). However, soon as she let out all this frustration, all of this powerful anger, she realized this is what type of prodigy she was, being herself and not letting others change her,

Symbolism

The best form of symbolism one can find in Two Kinds is the piano, with the two songs she plays on it, Perfectly Contented and Pleading Child, being two parts of the same whole. This connects with Jing as throughout the story, she is split being who she wants to be, and what her mother wants her to be. It can also connect to when they had their last argument, with Suyuan saying that there are only two types of daughters, those who obey and those who don’t, which leads June even more torn at what she wishes to be.

Educational Analysis

In the story as it plays out, Suyuan wants her daughter to be someone with prodigy levels in education and talent, with her constantly testing her on her knowledge looking at other children who are actual child prodigies as examples for her daughter. With Suyuan constantly trying to cram all this into her daughter’s head, she believes that in doing so, she will be able to succeed in the ‘land of opportunity’ that America is to immigrants for their families.

Health Analysis

While Suyuang believes what she is doing for her daughter at this time will help her in the long run, hoping to make her famous, this can be seen having an opposite effect on her. Because of this pressure and somewhat obsession for her daughter to do so well and succeeded, it caused Jing to be torn about who she truly wanted to be as she grew up, not wanting to disappoint her mother, but also wanting to be her own person. This drive those to oppose her though, led her to never wanting to succeed, with her even saying, “It was not the only disappointment my mother felt in me. In the years that followed, I failed her many times, each time asserting my will, my right to fall short of expectations. I didn’t get straight as. I didn’t become class president. I didn’t get into Stanford. I dropped out of college” (Tan).

While she may have been able to get better, because of this drama and events of her childhood, she never believed she could become more or grow more, only to be herself.

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