Amy Tan Short Stories
The Fallacies on the American Dream in Two Kinds, a Short Story by Amy Tan
In the short story “Two Kinds” by Amy Tan, she writes about a child named Jing-mei and her experiences with her mother pushing her to become a prodigy, all while her mother deals with being a Chinese immigrant that just moved to the United States. The two countries obviously share very different cultures and this plays a part in the story as she pushes Jing-mei to live ‘The American Dream’. Her mother strongly believes that in America you can be whatever you want to be. This, to some, may not be true, however this idea is strongly pushed in the Chinese culture. This is shown when Jing-mei fails to do any prodigious task that her mother puts in front of her which leads to her mother being ultimately disappointed in Jing-mei. Her failures ends up causing a huge argument between Jing-mei and her mother. The argument could be called the climax of the story. This confrontation wouldn’t have happened if Jing-mei’s mother didn’t have the huge idea that The American Dream is a legitimate thing, and Jing-mei’s mother wouldn’t have that perception of America if the Chinese culture didn’t present the United States as such a place. Based on Chinese culture and perspectives, there are numerous fallacies concerning the American Dream, and these are displayed in Amy Tan’s short story “Two Kinds”.
Chinese culture is obviously extremely different than the culture in the United States, and not many Chinese citizens actually know what it’s like to live in America. This could lead to the United States being represented incorrectly. Most Chinese citizens have the impression that America is the land of dreams, and that you can go there and live a successful life, make money and be famous but that’s not always true. According to an article written by Patrick Kim of tutorming.com; there’s a huge list of shows that are popular in China that are originally from the United States. The most popular show on the list is a show called The Big Bang Theory. In the show, there are four geeks who all have their PHDs and all do wacky things. Since this is a popular show in China, a good percentage of the population is most likely watches the show. The show could easily give off the impression to Chinese citizens looking to immigrate to America that you can just come to the country and become a doctor or scientist since the show doesn’t display anything negative about America in terms of the economy. Chinese citizens would be filled with hope that their lives are changing only to be heartbroken and distraught when they find out that to become a doctor they need $40,000 a year that they don’t have because they didn’t bring any money with them from China. This is just one of many ways that China falsely displays American life.
In addition to China presenting ‘The American Dream’ as a legitimate lifestyle, China also glorifies child prodigies. There’s many talent shows that are similar to America’s Got Talent and The X-Factor that often feature children performing songs and gaining fame from being on national television. On the Chinese talent show titled Amazing Chinese, there’s a viral video of Zhang Junhao, a three year old boy, doing some dance moves that obviously makes the crowd love him. There’s an article on pri.org that’s written by Emily Lodish. In the article, Emily states “He’s got the judges eating out of the palm of his hand and an entire audience swooning.”She says that Zhang can do something that no three year old should know how to do, and that’s playing an audience. Before the performance, he says to the judges “When I dance, my mom laughs. My mom says laughing is happiness. My dream is to make people happy because I am happy. Are you happy?” This certainly isn’t something that a toddler should be able to do naturally, which could only mean that he was taught how to do this by someone. His parents or parent could have obviously pushed Zhang to dance incredibly hard until he had it mastered, and then told him just what to tell the judges to get that nice heartwarming feeling out of the performance. This is just one of many examples of Chinese parents forcing their child to do some sort of prodigious task, which leads me to my next point.
In Amy Tan’s short story Two Kinds, Jing-mei’s mother forces her to do all sorts of prodigious tasks so that her daughter can be the best daughter and be all sorts of talented. The only issue is that Jing-mei fails at all of the tasks that are put in front of her and makes her mother very disappointed. Just like when talking about Zhang Junhao’s dance performance, his mother most likely was forcing him to do all of that, just like when Jing-mei’s mother was forcing her to play the piano and perform in the talent show where she ended up embarrassed herself. Looking back at my first paragraph, Jing-mei’s parents were immigrants who moved to America straight from China for the sole purpose of finding and living a better life for their family. Jing-mei’s mother had the idea of the “American Dream” in her head while moving to America, since she believed that she could do anything in America.
In conclusion, it’s not unusual for Chinese culture to falsely present the United States as the Disneyland of countries to live in, but it brings false hope to immigrants who come from China expecting the holy grail of a wealthy life. They come to a new country, hoping to start living “The American Dream” yet end up getting ultimately disappointed.. It also gives parents the idea that they can make their children become a child prodigy and become the perfect child since they show Chinese versions of American reality shows on television networks.
The Concept of the Evils of Society in The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, Two Kinds by Amy Tan, and I Want to Be Miss America by Julia Alvarez
“Two Kinds” “TBE” “Miss Amer”
A person can change themselves or the people around them due to the pressure of society’s interests and expectations. Throughout “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison, “Two Kinds” by Amy Tan, and “I Want To Be Miss America” by Julia Alvarez, the main idea of the evils of society is constantly mentioned and explored. In “The Bluest Eye”, Pecola desired to be accepted, but in the long run her interaction with people, such as Maureen and Junior, and the idea of beauty has negatively affected her self esteem thus degrading her idea of her own self worth. Similarly, in “Two Kinds”, Jing-mei Woo didn’t want to disappoint her mother and be a failure as her mother came to America for opportunities and to lead a better life. However, as she encountered Waverly, she realized what society expected of her, and knowing it was difficult for her to fulfill those expectations, it further degraded her self worth . Lastly, in contrast, “I Want to Be Miss America”, displays how the idea of beauty can negatively affect one’s self esteem as self doubt can come into play. Thus, the main character’s interaction with other people and ideas negatively affect the main characters self esteem
In “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison, the main character as well as the protagonist, Pecola Breedlove ,is an eleven-year old girl who suffered two traumatic rapes as she is abused by almost everyone in the book. Trying to change her perspective on life, Pecola thinks being light skinned with blue eyes will give her a different lens on life as she feels that being African American bring’s nothing but bad luck in one’s life. Pecola’s interaction with the people around her and ideas had detrimental effects on her self worth by lessening her self value after being raped by her father. On page 63, Maureen Peal is introduced as she has and deals with interactions with Pecola, and as they develop an argument through Maureen asking the question, “Did you ever see a naked man?” (Page 71). In self defense Pecola responded as “Nobody’s father would be naked in front of his own daughter.Pecola at this point, started to regain vivid and descriptive details of her rape and the amount of shame that comes along with it. As an argument started to arise between Maureen and Frieda about Maureen being crazy about boys being naked, Pecola started to have a breakdown and denied that she never saw her father naked. Unfortunately this led to “Pecola tuck[ing] her head in a funny, sad, helpless movement” (Page 72). In addition, not only does Maureen demean Pecola but Junior does as well. Junior invites Pecola into his house saying that there are some kittens and being amazed by being able to pet it “He held the door open for her, smiling his encouragement” (Page 89). As he was giving the kitten to Pecola, he threw it in her face which left a scar on her face and as Pecola tries to leave, Junior says that she’s his prisoner. Geraldine calls Pecola a “nasty little black b*****” (Page 92). By judging her and touching upon a sensitive topic to Pecola, her skin color, Geraldine lower’s Pecola’s self esteem and as a result she wants to fit in with society more, having blonde hair and blue eyes and being light skinned as she believes it can change her reality or the current situations she’s in.
Similarly, in “Two Kinds” by Amy Tan, the narrator and the main character Jing-mei Woo, has recently moved to America after the Chinese Revolution had occurred in 1949 as her mother wanted a better life for both of them and let Jing-mei Woo have more opportunities to be successful and become a prodigy. Jing-mei Woo’s mother wants nothing but the best for her and in order to prepare her to be a prodigy and be successful in America she started to compile an abundant amount of tests which ranged from predicting the daily temperatures of Los Angeles to multiplying numbers in her head. As time passed she saw her “mother’s disappointed face… I hated the raised hopes and fail expectations… [and she] began to cry.” (Page 2, paragraph 14) The event of seeing her mother’s disappointed face ruins her daughter, Jing-mei Woo’s self esteem as her mother sees more potential in her than she does in herself. By being pushed and breaking her limits she starts to question whether or not she can be able to make her mother proud. In addition, Waverly, Jing-mei Woo’s cousin also known as “Chinatown’s Littlest Chinese Chess Champion.” As the narrator is invited to play in the talent show to showcase her musical talents (playing the piano) Jing-mei thinks that she can wing it by not paying attention as long as she looked good on stage everyone would be clapping for her. Unfortunately, after the performance “Waverly looked at [her] and shrugged her shoulders. ‘You aren’t a genius like me,’” (page 4, paragraph 53- based upon page 1), which brought back those unpleasant moments in which case she failed her mother once again as she wasn’t a prodigy, a genius like Waverly.
In “I Want To Be Miss America”, Julia Alvarez experiences the pain of being different in a society where beauty has a different value as their “looks didn’t seem to fit in” (page 39). According to the text, she witnesses the Miss America Pageant on T.V. and the idea of being white and skinny was implemented into her mind as the beauty needed to become Miss America. As a result, they became self-conscious based upon the ideal standards of beauty set by society self doubt from within started to become present. They wanted to fit in but they were “short, [their hair were] frizzed, and their figures didn’t curve” (page 39) like others had. On page 44, the last paragraph, the narrator portrays how self doubt is nothing but an enemy to oneself. Since they have already been in America for three decades, Julia Alvarez “feel[s] like a stranger in what [she] now considers her own country” (Page 44). The constant self doubt further depreciates the self esteem of Julia as a woman and as an American due to her inability to match societal expectations.
Overall, at young ages, experiences and words have a profound impact on the development of self worth and self confidence. In “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison, Pecola encounters Maureen and Junior and the concept of beauty which makes her feel worthless by degrading her self worth while being self conscious about herself. In addition, in “Two Kinds” by Amy Tan, the protagonist Jing-mei Woo is bombarded with workload and this negatively affects her self esteem as she keeps on disappointing her mother. Also, in “I Want To Be Miss America” by Julia Alvarez self doubt starts to form as a result of beauty standards. Therefore, the protagonists interactions with people and ideas start to degrade their self worth in a negative aspect.
The Clash Of The Cultures In Two Kinds By Amy Tan
Around the world today, there are hundreds of people desperately wanting to leave their homelands and travel to the United States for a variety of reasons such as, to escape war, poverty and famine, believing that they could find relief on American soil. In Two Kinds by Amy Tan, she uses noncompliant Jing Mei and her native mother’s expectation of obedience to depict the clash of the cultures and how it affected the relationship between the two. Jing Mei’s mother moved to San Francisco, California in 1949 to seek a better life, in doing so, she left her hometown China, to be a part of her memories instead of a furthermore reality. Moving to America, as Mei grew older, her mother expected more of her to have a prodigy, she believed that she could be good at anything she wanted to be good at, which throughout this story, turns into the clash of the cultures as their relationship between the two decline drastically.
Jing Mei can be looked at as an ideal Americanized child, who grew up living in America ever since she had been born. Her mother who grew up in China and lived such a difficult life, adapting to the traditional Chinese ways, which is drastically different compared to the normal Americanized ways of doing things, she took her adapted Chinese ways of living with her as she moved to America. Chinese people are known to be very obedient, loyal, hardworking, and very intelligent. Growing up in China isn’t easy, especially in the old days, parents would sometimes beat their kids if they didn’t get higher than an A in school, or just being punished for not being obedient towards their parents. Comparing this to an Americanized child, they’ve got it way easier, which makes us realize why Mei’s mother acted the way she acted in this story.
Jing Mei’s mother expected her to be the best in everything, which meant any questions she asked she had to know the answer to, or else she would feel disappointed. This really affected Jing Mei in a way, because she felt as if she was being controlled by her mother, forcing her to do things and know things she didn’t want to. This takes a huge part in affecting their relationship, if I were to put myself in her shoes, I would’ve felt the same way. How can someone tell me to be something I don’t want to be? This lacks motivation, it makes the person feel very depressed because we feel obligated to not let our parents down, after everything they have done for us. Jing Mei had this instinct, she didn’t want to let her parents down, but at the same time she didn’t want to be forced to do something she didn’t want to do, especially playing the piano, which can be very conflicting mentally and emotionally.
Moreover, after Mei’s mother had watched the Ed Sullivan show which broadcasted a young Chinese girl playing the piano, her mother complained about how awful she sounded even though she was playing the right notes. Jing Mei retaliates by asking her mother why she had been picking on her, and in doing so Mei says, “She’s pretty good. She may not be the best, but she’s trying hard”. Even though Mei feels like she may have regretted saying this, deep down she feels this way towards her mother. After watching the Ed Sullivan’s show her mother schedules her to start taking piano lessons without consulting with Mei about it, which causes her to feel anger, hatred, and sad towards her mother. “Why don’t you like me the way I am? I’m not a genius! I can’t play the piano, and even if I could I wouldn’t go on TV if you paid me a million dollars!” When Mei says this, she establishes to us that she obviously doesn’t want to play the piano, but her mother does, which concludes that she’s trying to live through her, rather than letting her do what she really wants, which can take a negative toll on the mind.
As Jing Mei pursues the piano lessons painfully, and after the terrible incident of doing horrifically at the talent show, Mei stops playing the piano and her mother is very distraught about what had happened. Mei says to her mother, “You want me to be something that I am not! I’ll never be the kind of daughter you want me to be!” By establishing this, Mei explains to us that not only the disappointment of her mother that she felt, it was also the many years that followed, she failed her countless times when it came to school, not being class president, dropping out of college, etc. These factors really take a turn in the relationship between a mother and daughter, especially when the mother values their daughter’s future, just like Mei’s mother did, even if it may have been a bit excessive due to her Chinese culture. Her mother had given up after their struggle at the piano, even though Mei wondered why, she couldn’t play the piano again. After several years went by and Mei’s mother wanting to give the piano for her to keep, she passes away, and Mei starts to play the piano again. This is because after all these years, her mother is still her family and her beloved one, and a family loss takes a toll on a person no matter how strong or faint their relationship was. Mei being sentimental about the piano and clothes made her feel as if her mother was still there with her in spirit. It all symbolized something special in her heart.
In conclusion, although Mei has initially resented her mother’s cultural exceptions of her initially, she then realizes as she comes of age that her mother had her best interest in her. The piano symbolizes the struggle to stay true to herself but to also try and stay obedient and respectful. This story has many different messages and meanings, one of them being never take your time with your mother for granted regardless of how “mean” or “harsh” she may be. Mothers only want what is best for their daughters, and even though it may not seem like it at times, in the end, it’s all they ever want. Many are blinded to see this value, because of how many mothers in the world distribute this message to their sons and daughters. We are all culturally different. Because of the two cultures between Jing Mei and her mother, it affected their cultures negatively, Mei didn’t have a very close relationship with her mother like she wanted to, and in doing so, their time together was short. If Mei were to see things differently through her mother’s eyes, I believe their relationship would’ve been stronger and Mei would’ve understood more. Reading stories like this, especially personal accounts, can increase empathy because readers as for myself, may have gone through the same thing with their mothers or fathers even. Personally, I have gone through the same thing growing up with my mother, I can relate to Mei on several aspects because I have been in her shoes, I personally know how it feels, which makes me emphasize it even greatly. Mei’s mother created visions of her adopted country as a land of opportunity where all dreams may be realized, even though Mei didn’t quite see eye to eye with her mother on this, in the end when her mother had given the piano to her, it symbolized her mother’s forgiveness of her. For Mei growing up over the years this meant for her to grow and be mature, but also feelings of regret towards her actions to her mother when she was younger.
Two Kinds By Amy Tan: Depiction Of American Dream In A Negative Aspect
“Two Kinds” is a short story, which is a part of the book “The Joy Luck Club” written by Amy Tan. “The Joy Luck Club” was published in 1989. The mother-daughter relationship displayed in the short story, has received criticism for perpetuating racist stereotypes about Asian Americans. In this analysis, I would like to interpret the distinctions existing between an Asian immigrant and an Asian-American child, how the American dream can have a negative impact on immigrants and how Amy Tan makes a great usage of symbols.
The short story “Two Kinds” follow mother and daughter, and the mothers wish for her daughter to become a prodigy. This short story compares the differences between the mothers and a daughter’s generation, but they also compare the differences between American and Chinese culture. In the short story “Two Kinds” the daughter and her mother lives in America, and her mother is a firm believer in the stereotypical American Dream. She believes that you can become anything in America, and so she chooses her daughter’s path in life. The mother chooses each thing that could make her daughter rich and famous. In China, this wouldn’t have been a possibility, but being in America allows her to push her daughter into a life that isn’t servile. Due to the mother’s hardship in life, she has a hopeful grasp on the American Dream. The mother in the story is both selfish and selfless. She sacrifices a whole lot for her daughter in hope of her getting a better future. “Mr. Chong was a retired piano teacher, and my mother had traded house cleaning services for weekly lessons and a piano for me to practice on every day, two hours a day from four to six”. But she is also selfish, she wants to experience the American Dream but she does it through her daughter.
The main theme in the story is the cultural distinctions existing between an Asian immigrant and an Asian-American child. The conflict and desires of both the mother and the daughter reflects on the American Dream and how people typically immigrating to America, focus more on acquiring materialistic life that is promised. Because of that the mother raises her daughter, based on the American Dream. This leads to the daughter only focusing on the materialistic life rather than the life that actually makes her happy. The mother raises her daughter in a Chinese way despite living in America. She raises her, like she had been raised. In Asian culture, it is common that the parents choose their child path, but in America it’s different. Children choose their own paths in life, and this is the cultural division between an Asian immigrant and Asian-American child. Immigrant parents feel pressure to transform their child into individuals who are easily accepted in society, but the problem is that by doing this they are straining their relationship with their child. Which has a negative impact on their adjustment in society. That is clearly displayed in the short story “Two Kinds”. The external conflict in the short story, causes the daughter to have an internal conflict. “And after seeing, once again my mother’s disappointed face, something inside me began to die. I hated the test, the raised hopes and failed expectations. 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.” No matter what the daughter did, to make her mother proud, it was never good enough, which caused her to become bitter and stubborn. The daughter gets tired of disappointing her mother, which makes her come to the realization that she cannot become a prodigy for her mother. And promise therefore to shield herself from any change her mother wants her to endorse. Which further restrain their relationship.
The title is an important phenomenon, in the short story. It is displayed in various ways through the story. In the beginning of the short story, the daughter was obedient doing everything her mother wanted her to do, but she realized that she needed to follow her own path. “Only two kinds of daughters” she shouted in Chinese “Those who are obedient and those who follow their own mind!”. In America, it’s not common that the parents choose the child’s path, but in Asian culture it is. In this citation, you can see how the author describes the culture distinction existing between an Asian immigrant and an Asian – American child. Amy Tan uses a lot of these “Two kinds” symbols, in both the song, the title but also the piano. The piano can be a symbol of two things in this short story. The piano is a symbol of the tension between the mother and the daughter, as soon as the piano lessons are talked about it creates tension. “Why don’t you like me the way I am? I cried. I’m not a genius! I can’t play the piano. And even if I could, I wouldn’t go on TV if you paid me a million dollars!” This of course proceed into the disastrous piano recital. But at the end of the story the daughter is given the piano back and she sees it like a trophy. Like a peace offering and the symbolism of the piano has therefore change because the daughter won it back on her own terms. In the end of the short story the daughter realizes that “Pleading Child” and “Perfectly Contented” are two halves of the same song. “Pleading Child” being a symbol of her childhood, her obedience, her bad memories while, “Perfectly Contented” being a symbol of her adulthood, her independence, and her wish to follow her own path. These two songs are two halves of the same song because in order for the daughter to find herself, to become who she is today she needed both of them. She would not be who she is today without both the songs. The author also suggests in the story that the daughter towards the end doesn’t have any ill feelings towards her mother, when she’s gone which is the reason why she started playing again. This same kind of symbolism can be used to describe the piano. Because the piano has black and white keys, the black symbolizing the bad memories and her childhood and the white symbolizing her adulthood and independence. But both types of keys make music, so in order to create a good song, she need both the black and the white keys. So, in order to become who, she is today she needed both of them.
On the basis of the analysis, I would like to conclude that the short story “Two Kinds” uses the American Dream in a negative aspect, by materializing the way the mother thinks in the short story, therefore also impacting the daughter way of thinking about happiness, they also make use of typical stereotypes of Asian-American, by doing so.
A Conflict Between Mother And Daughter In Amy Tan’s Two Kinds
Very often children argue and demand about what they want to be when they grow up; while parents require them to be what they want them to be. The short story “Two Kinds” by Amy Tan shows the life of a Chinese girl who is at her adolescence and the influence of her cultural mom on her growing up. After losing her family, kids and everything she had in China, the mother tries to recapture them through her daughter. As America is a place with endless opportunities available for anyone who pursue them, Ni Kan’s mother wants her daughter’s life to be full of dreams and hopes that she did not have. In the story the author develops the conflict between a mother and her daughter to show that some mother’s and daughter’s conflict with one another because they have very different ideas about culture, hard work and being a prodigy.
There is a huge cultural diversity around the world and people have their own cultures which are very special to them. With the time, Ni Kan grew up and her mother started to feel some differences in her daughter. Ni Kan’s mother have experienced the Chinese culture when she was young, so as an immigrant she wanted her daughter also to be like the other kids from China. She had high expectations on her daughter in achieving the American dream and did not even care how they would affect her. Parents usually want their children to be what they want, but that’s not the right thing, they should let their children take their own decisions when they grow up. At first Ni Kan’s mother wanted her to be like “Shirley Temple”. She used to watch Shirley’s old movies on TV and as every time she sees her she used to poke on Ni Kan and say “Ni Kan — you watch”. After getting this whole idea about Shirley Temple, Ni Kan’s mother then wanted to give the same exact haircut as Shirley. Ultimately, the person who gave her the haircut was a student who was on training and she “emerged with uneven mass of crinkly black fuzz”. “You look like Negro Chinese”, said Ni Kan’s mother like if she had purposely done it to herself. At first Ni Kan listened to her mother, but when her mother keeps on posting foolish expectations she started hating her mother. Finally, Ni Kan thought to herself “I didn’t have to what my mother said anymore. I wasn’t her slave. This wasn’t China”, and she started to become a stubborn kid. Their conflict became aggressive at the end and mother said to Ni Kan that “only one kind of daughter can live in this house, obedient daughter”, after that Ni Kan shouted at mother saying that she wished she wasn’t her daughter. Through the above quotes and descriptions, we can be clear that different ideas about culture among mother and daughter became one reason for their conflicts. In addition to cultural issues, mother wanting Ni Kan to do hard work and she gets tired of is another point where conflicts start between mother and daughter.
In order to make her child a genius kid like the kids she saw on TV, Ni Kan’s mother started testing her by giving hard work. Ni Kan’s mother used to watch TV shows and read many magazines, and then she wanted her daughter to memorize names of the capitals from different countries after seeing a nine-year-old kid with extraordinary talents. One day, while reading a magazine mother asked Ni Kan, “What’s the capital of Finland? When mother asked the above question from Ni Kan, the only thing she knew was the capital city of California, because “Sacramento” was the name of the road they lived before. Mother kept challenging her with many different tests which were so hard for the kids at her age, and the tests got much harder and harder, for instance; she asked her to find “the queen of hearts in a deck of cards” and told her to predict, “the daily temperatures in Los Angeles, New York, and London”. One-night Ni Kan’s mother wanted her to read a page from the Bible for three minutes and she had to “report everything” she could remember. When Ni Kan failed to answer mother gets frustrated. Little by little Ni Kan started hating her mother and the tests, and she started to lose her hopes that she thought she will be the same ordinary kid forever. One night before going to bed Ni Kan looked into the mirror at the bathroom and she said, “I saw only my face staring back—and that it would always be this ordinary face”. As she was fed up with the hard tests; Ni Kan tried different tactics to make her mother give up on her. “I played a game with myself”, said Ni Kan. She counted bellows to show her dislike. At last mothers “was beginning to give up hope”. And finally, she thrived that mother gave up trying after feeling that her effort is useless. By reading the above examples we can come into a conclusion that the hard work given by mother stressed out her daughter and that became another reason for the conflicts. Besides, Ni Kan’s mother wanting her to be a child prodigy is another fact that head starts the conflicts between mother and daughter.
From the beginning of the story the narrator talks about her mother forcing her to be a child prodigy, but after her disappointing stuff mother starts to give up on her and stops talking about her daughter being a prodigy. “Two or three months had gone by without any mention of my being a prodigy again”. At that moment she was happy because she didn’t have any pressure on her. But again after watching TV shows and seeing a little girl playing the piano like a professional, Ni Kan’s mother starts telling her to play the piano like her. “Ni Kan”, “Look here”, said Ni Kan’ mother, after getting “fascinated by the music”. What she saw was a little Chinese girl playing piano and mother was really impressed by her talent. Then after Ni Kan’s mother signed her up for a talent show organized by the church and she invited all her neighbors from “The Joy Luck Club” to watch Ni Kan perform on stage. Most importantly, “auntie Lindo and uncle Tin”, and their kids “Waverly and her two older brothers had also come”. Waverly was that talented kid from her neighborhood whom she played with in her childhood. Without any fear Ni Kan stepped on stage and performed, but she was not so good at playing piano, because her tutor Mr. Chong was very old that he couldn’t hear or see well, and he didn’t even train her properly to compete at a talent show. “I heard a little boy whisper loudly to his mother “That was Awful,” And the mother whispered back, “Well, she certainly tried”. At last she had to face people’s sulky expressions while playing and she felt sad about herself. Not only the outsiders, but rather her father’s negative feedback, and her mother’s blank face made her feel bad. The above quotes and explanations about Ni Kan’s mother pushing her to be famous shows how conflicts arose between mother and daughter.
In conclusion, the above quotes and explanations shows and prove that cultural differences, hard working in life and Ni Kan’s mother wanting her to be a prodigy became the root causes for the conflicts between mother and daughter. This story gives a good message for children and also the parents to have better understanding among each other. I would say that parents should be a strength to their children by giving advices to select their career and they should not force their children to do what they want them to be. Moreover, children should listen to their parents, because parents always try to select best things for our own good.
Literary Analysis Of Two Kinds By Amy Tan
Living up to parents’ standards can be hard when they contradict with your own goals and aspirations. The short story, “Two Kinds”, by Amy Tan, shows this struggle in first person narrative form, by focusing on the effects these kinds of conflicts can have on kinship relations. Jing-Mei Woo, and Mrs. Woo, a mother and daughter, had many conflicts and disputes caused by their contrasting standards of success. The verbal and physical confrontations connected with this caused permanent damage to their relationship. Both their pride and clashing personalities inhibited their ability to truly communicate. Tan uses the symbol of Shirley Temple, and the allegory of the songs “Pleading Child” and “Perfectly Contented”, to display the lasting effects that are caused by the misunderstandings of intention through lack of communication in personal relationships.
In the beginning of the story, it is made clear that there is a lot of pressure on Jing-Mei Woo to be a “prodigy” and fit the idealized image of American success. For her mother, she only saw this exhibited by Hollywood. She longed for her daughter to be a, “Chinese Shirley Temple”. By using this perception of prosperity and accomplishment, her mother thought that she was going to be able to shape Jing-Mei into it. As first-generation Chinese immigrants, their family saw success in western culture in the form of celebrities and people on TV. This heavily influenced what Mrs. Woo wanted her daughter to strive to become. At one point Jing-Mei shared this same dream when she said, “I was filled with a sense that I would soon become perfect: My mother and father would adore me. I would be beyond reproach. I would never feel the need to sulk, or to clamor for anything”. But often with family ideals, pressure is attached to become something you may not want to be. The conflicts became apparent when Jing-Mei started to tear away from the “prodigy” label and wanted to be her true self, regardless of the expectations her mother had. The “Shirley Temple” ideal was impractical. This root idea was where her mother and her sprouted their altercations and unhealthy energy towards each other. Her mother’s anger and forceful tactics made it difficult for them to correspond with each other and figure out each other’s intentions and true wishes.
Through the metaphorical song titles, Tan expresses how the experiences we have as children, positive and negative, stay with us, but it might not be until later in life that we see how these experiences shape us. The missing communication component lasted throughout the mother and daughter’s relationship until it strained and broke when the latter lashed out verbally to cause hurt at the deep-seated anguish of her mother’s loss of twin daughters. The song, “Pleading Child”, was one that her mother made her learn as a child on the keys, and when revisiting the piano, Jing-Mei realized that the next song after that was called “Perfectly Contented”. She came to realize that, “After she had played them both a few times, she realized they were two halves of the same song”. The allegory that is revealed in this ending statement is that their relationship had reformed. Through all the conflict and pressure and trauma, her mother’s true intention was to help her. The things she experienced in her childhood shaped her into becoming who she was as a human being.
In her short story, Tan shows how the lack of communication and misunderstanding of intention causes disconnect in family. In the beginning, Tan made the characters’ standards different; her mom wanted her to become a “Shirley Temple” and she wanted to go on with her life as who she truly was. As the story came to a close it was shown that their relationship had transformed from being disembodied and chaotic, to content. This transformation highlights the importance and need for proper communication as well as the closure it can bring with it.
Two Kinds By Amy Tan: The Relationship Between Mother And Daughter
Amy Tan is a prolific Asian American writer who has been successful in depicting the sentiments of children of Chinese immigrants to the United States. Most of her work focused on the relationship dynamics of mothers and daughters inspired by her own conflicted experiences with her strict Chinese mother. Her bestselling novel, The Joy Luck Club, has been made into a movie adopting the same title. The short story, ‘Two Kinds’ was derived from that piece of work.
In ‘Two Kinds’, the narrator is also the protagonist as she relates her own stressful relationship with her overbearing mother. It reflects the vast difference between two generations, one that hailed from traditional Chinese upbringing and another one that has been greatly influenced by Americanized values. The title itself reveals opposite poles that seem to be the theme of the story, which often clash and result in damage in the mother-daughter relationship. The mother subscribes to her own beliefs that daughters should be obedient and blindly follow what their parents tell them to do. However, the rebellious streak of the daughter hindered her from fully obliging to all her mother’s demands. Initially, the daughter was dutiful in obeying her mother’s wish to be a prodigy, as she also wished this for herself. However, after a stark revelation that she is not the kind of prodigy her mother wanted, as demonstrated in her disastrous piano recital, she stepped back from being the dutiful daughter she was expected to be and decided to follow her own path. This inner courage she unleashed when speaking up to her mother may have come from the strong American influence on allowing children to assert their independence. She did not want to be a genius pianist as she did not believe she had what it took to be one, much to her mother’s disappointment. She said hurtful words to her mother, like opening a can of worms on painful memories from her mother’s past that were left undiscussed until that fateful confrontation. From then on, her mother stopped pushing her to fulfill the dreams she had for her daughter… which were also for herself.
The mother’s desire for her daughter to be a prodigy was deeply rooted from her own misfortunes in the past. She left China devastated, losing her whole family including her twin baby girls. She came to America in 1949 to chase the American dream which she so strongly believed in. Perhaps it was her own optimism that pushed her to dream for her own daughter, and that includes shining as a child prodigy, just like Shirley Temple. She even had her daughter’s hair cut like the child actress’ iconic hairstyle so she can somehow resemble her and perhaps, her brilliance as a child prodigy might rub off on her daughter. Although she already set foot in American soil, she maintained her Chinese values, one of which is raising a dutiful child who is expected to obey her every command. She felt the need to control her child’s life for her to be successful in achieving the American dream.
The title ‘Two Kinds’ presents deep themes of duality and opposition. The mother mentioned two kinds of daughters – “those who are obedient and those who follow their own mind!”. She decided that her daughter should be the obedient kind. The daughter refused to accept it and stubbornly held on to her decision to ‘follow her own mind’. That was when the mother finally backed down to lose the fight. She continued to be disappointed with her daughter, with all her failures in her life, however, the daughter embraced such failures as part of her own growth and development into the kind of woman she wanted herself to be and not what her mother wanted her to be. They continued living their lives following their different beliefs. Finally, on her thirtieth birthday, the mother made an effort to reconcile their differences by gifting her daughter with the piano she spent so much time and effort practicing on as an aspiring child prodigy. The daughter softened and realized her mother just wanted her to realize how much she believed in her talent. As she played the cherished piano, she found two pieces inside the piano’s bench that also reflected the theme of duality and opposition. One was “Pleading Child” and the other one was “Perfectly Contented”. These pieces were vastly different from each other in terms of tempo and mood, but they were really part of just one song. One piece represented her past life as an unhappy child resisting the pressures her mother laid down on her and the other piece reflected her present life as a woman living the life she wanted for herself. In playing these two pieces as one song, she realized that they complemented each other and the song will not be completed without the other one. That was when the daughter realized that she could not have grown to be the woman that she is, the ‘perfectly contented’ woman, without becoming the ‘pleading child’ who had to struggle for her own independence. It now made sense, and she has reconciled with her past conflicts with her mother with the music she played on her piano.
The narrator’s clear memories of her childhood experiences, especially those that included how her mother related to her brought her a better understanding of the dynamics they shared, the conflicts they struggled with in their relationship, the differences brought about by the various influences each had while growing up and how they both matured into the present to settle their differences. As she narrated the anecdotes, she expressed the same emotions she felt then as a child making her readers empathize with her agony as a child of a traditional and controlling mother. When her mother reached out to her by giving her the piano, the narrator appreciated it and understood the journey her mother also had to go through from her painful past to the time she came around to also understand her daughter. She still did not waver from her belief that her daughter was truly talented, and this time, it was not only to push her to be a prodigy but to assure her that she really has it in her but she just did not see it then. As a mother, she knew things about her child that the daughter refused to see or was still blind to see because of her own desire to be independent of her mother’s control. That was why she was so insistent that her daughter should try harder. Knowing what her mother endured in China and realizing her optimism that life will be much kinder to her American-born daughter, the narrator developed a more enlightened appreciation of her mother. It was in her adulthood that she saw that her mother’s intentions were for her own good as she did not want her to suffer the same fate she experienced in China. Holding on to the American dream, she subjected her child to what she believed was right, and that was pushing her to be the best she can be.
The narrator and her mother were indeed different from each other in terms of their personalities and beliefs. However, they did not realize that they were truly the same in hoping for a better future for themselves despite the painful past they have endured.
Amy Tan’s Life Experiences In “Two Kinds”
“Writing is an extreme privilege but it’s also a gift. It’s a gift to yourself and it’s a gift giving a story to someone”. Amy Tan knew she had a gift and perfectly executed it by writing “Two Kinds”. Amy Tan‘s life exceedingly impacted her works of literature. Amy Tan’s writing was influenced by her family, childhood, and her culture.
Tan’s writing is largely influenced by her family. Tan uses her experiences and forms them into her novels and stories. Amy Tan’s father was a Baptist minister, but her mother would tell her gory stories which started Tan’s love for grotesque stories and a touch of rebellion. Tan later had many family problem such as her father and brother both passing away due to brain tumors. Tan also learned later about her mother’s abusive relationship which influenced her writing as Tan mentions similar aspects to that relationship in “Two Kinds”. Tan’s past experiences with her family is largely influenced in her works.
Not only was Tan influenced by her family, but into further detail she was influenced by her childhood. Tan read “Jane Eyre” and “Catcher in the Rye” when she was a child which inspired Tan’s writing. Throughout Tan’s childhood she was inspired by these books which the love for those books all started with her mother’s stories. Tan’s father was a Baptist minister which led Tan into a more of a rebellious phase which can be seen in “Two Kinds”. Tan uses her life experiences in her stories which makes the story seem more real and personal. In further detail of her family, most would say Tan was influenced by her childhood.
An overall look over how Amy Tam was influenced was by her culture. “Her own life and that of her mother and grandmother in pre-revolutionary China has been dodged with astonishing drama, tragedy and violence. While the inheritance can be traced in her novels. What stands out the more is the changing, often abrasive, interplay between generations between Chinese mothers and their American daughters.” There was no doubt that Tan’s life was influenced by her culture because she grew up as a Chinese-American. Since Tan is a Chinese-American her readers can have a sense of what it is like since she intertwines her culture into her stories to help her readers visualize what it is like to be a Chinese-American. Tan’s culture influenced her writings which is an overlook of her family and childhood.
Tan was greatly influenced by her culture, family, and childhood. Tan’s culture of a Chinese-American, who’s family greatly inspired her by telling her stories in her childhood gave her a different perspective on life than most. Tan’s short story, “Two Kinds”, gives her readers a little a taste of her own life. Amy Tan perfectly puts her life into her stories to show how widely she was influenced by the ones around her.
“Tan describes herself as a lover of language, not a scholar of English.” Tan illustrates her story “Two Kinds”, published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons, for her readers to understand her point of view. Tan uses her culture and her past experiences to express how she felt during those times. Tan’s plot of her story is intriguing because of how she uses similes, metaphors, and irony to illustrate to her readers how that moment felt or seemed like, so the readers can fully grasp the concept.
‘Two Kinds’ tells of a mother and daughter expecting a great life in America. Her mother wants Jing-mei to be a prodigy, making her do pointless tests that she sees other prodigy children doing in magazines. The tests prove to be useless, but Jing-mei’s mother decides to make Jing-mei take piano lessons with their neighbor, Mr. Chong. He is deaf and has poor eyesight, but having a teacher with disabilities gives Jing-Mei the ability to play as she wants to and basically not learn. Later, Jing-Mei’s mother signs her up for a talent show. She plays a song called Pleading Child and does absolutely awful. She thought her mother would be mad because the whole town was there watching, but surprisingly her mother says nothing to her about the recital. Later, her mother asks if she is going to the piano lessons. Jing-Mei did not want to pursue playing the piano. Her mother forcing her to go, Jing-Mei exclaims ‘I wish I had never been born; I wish I were dead! Like them [referring to the mothers dead twins in china].’ This left a blank face on her mother, horrified by what her daughter had said. The piano lessons had stopped and she did not have to do any of the prodigy trivial tests her mother had forced her to do before. Her mother later dies, and Jing-mei ,now an adult, is asked to take the old piano and her notes. She takes the piano and begins playing through her old music. She finds that the song ‘Pleading Child’ was only half of the song she had been playing. The other half was called ‘Perfectly Contented.’ Tan shows her readers in this story to be careful of what you say to others because one’s words can hurt another.
In “Two Kinds”, there are many of literary elements. Firstly, Jing-Mei uses a simile when she compares her ‘screams’ to a ‘crazed animal’ when she looks in the mirror and believes that she is a failure. There is another simile later on in the story when she describes the aged hands of old man Chong. She says, for example, that his fingers are like an ‘old peach’ that she once found in the refrigerator. Tan uses those similes so the reader can visualize or understand how something is happening. Tan’s similes describe those instances very well and helps the reader to understand what is happening.
Another literary element in the story is a metaphor. It is used by Jing-Mei when she compares her words of hate to ‘worms and toads’ climbing out of her chest. This metaphor is effective in emphasizing the anger and resentment that she feels toward her mother. Tan also uses metaphors to help understand how the characters are feeling and to set the mood in the story. The metaphors help the reader to see how Jing-Mei felt in this situation. Tan uses metaphors to show how the characters feel ,so the readers can know the mood of the situation.
Finally, there is some irony in the story too. As a child, Jing-Mei hated the piano because it represented her mother’s expectations. As an adult, however, Jing-Mei rediscovers the piano and learns to love it. This is ironic because her feelings toward the piano end up being very different to what the reader would have expected. Tan uses this irony to set the two tones in the story. The first tone that is set is anger however the second time is apologetic because Jing-Mei regrets what she said to her mother when she was angry which left her mother hurt for a very long time. Tan uses the irony so the readers can grasp the concept of the story.
Overall Tan perfectly describes her story using similes, metaphors, and irony. She uses these certain devices so that her readers can grasp the idea of what Tan wants the readers to learn. Tan wants the readers to understand that one’s words can go a long way. Also Tan wants her readers to know that it is okay to disagree with what other people want for you ,but do not disagree with them by hurting them with one’s words. Tan uses simile, metaphors, and irony in “Two Kinds” so the readers can fully understand.
Reflection on Identity in Fish Cheeks
Tan begins by sharing a story of how she didn’t want to accept herself and her Chinese culture all because a nice-looking guy and his family came over for Christmas Eve dinner. In this story, she explains her thoughts and feelings before, during, and after the minister’s son, Robert, and his family comes over for dinner by using imagery and tone. Her thoughts and feelings shows how much she was uncomfortable and even embarrassed from the beginning of dinner to the end, but all that took place that night turned out to be a well-learned lesson at the end, you should never have to be embarrassed about who you are as a unique human being to change for a person, especially a guy. The author’s tone, imagery, and impact of ethos is used well throughout the story.
Amy Tan’s tone in this story can be described as reflective. When an author uses a reflective tone, that author is reflecting on an experience they went through and sharing it with the audience that may reflect on it as well. Amy telling this story “Fish Cheeks” is her reflecting on a time where she was embarrassed by the food and the way her family ate at the Christmas Eve dinner her mom invited the minister and his family to. She also reflects on the message that she learned from that night. Another tone displayed in this story is a light-hearted tone. Amy Tan uses a light-hearted tone to show the humor and to also keep her readers engaged. This tone makes it seem like she is having a conversation with us as if we were one of her close friends. With this tone, she doesn’t cover up the message she is perceiving even with all of the humor. She is telling an experience she had by also getting straight to the point.
Imagery plays a big role in this story. Towards the end of paragraph two of this selection, Amy start’s asking questions. Her asking all of these questions allows the reader to picture her being nervous and even scared for the events that were to come. Amy also gives very vivid descriptions that allows you to picture the food that was prepared like the “slimy rock cod with bulging eyes,” or “tofu, that looked like stacked white rubbery sponges.” She also goes in deep detail about how her family was eating and explained their actions at the table such as “licking the ends of their chopsticks,” and “my father leaned back and belched loudly.” These descriptive details let the readers picture everything. Maybe even make the reader feel like they are there at the moment.
Amy Tan uses the appeal of ethos in this short story. Even though she’s being humorous for the most part, she uses ethos to share that she has been through something some of the female readers have went through as well. The way she wrote this short story made the readers, especially female teenage readers, understand what she’s talking about. The impact of ethos makes her credible about the information since it’s her own experience. For example, when she says “You must be proud you are different. Your only shame is to have shame,”, the saying from her mother, shows her use of ethos in this selection. This excerpt can be connected with the female readers, or any reader, having them feel like they are one with the author.The story inspired many people to write their impact, feelings, and reaction from the story. There are many sources that shows this. “Close Reading Practice: Amy Tan’s ‘Fish Cheeks’” and “Fish Cheeks Analysis” shows the reader’s process throughout analyzing the short story. From the looks of it the readers caught everything the author was trying to perceive through imagery, tone, and even the message. There’s even a source that goes deeper in depth about Amy Tan’s writing style and how she uses imagery and tone effectively. This source is “From Raw to Cooked: Amy Tan’s ‘‘Fish Cheeks’’ through a Levi-Strauss Lens” by Susan K. Kevra. Even though she uses a light-hearted tone and imagery throughout this story, she doesn’t fail to perceive her feelings and message to her readers. “But inside you must always be Chinese. You must be proud you are different. Your only shame is to have shame.”
Kevra, Susan K. “From Raw to Cooked: Amy Tan’s ‘‘Fish Cheeks’’ through a Levi-Strauss Lens.” Asian American Literature: Discourses & Pedaggies 6 (2015). November 2017.
Khattack, Monica. “”Fish Cheeks”.” september 2012. sites.google.com. November 2017.
Tan, Amy. “Fish Cheeks Amy Tan .” n.d. ncps-k12.org. November 2017.
Zhong, Zili. “Power of Process Assignment Title: Close Reading Practice: Amy Tan’s “Fish Cheeks.” n.d. scribd.com. November 2017.