Main Conflicts in Two Kinds Novel
“Two Kinds” by Amy Tan is a story that shows a battle between the narrator and her mother. The narrator’s mother wanted her to become a prodigy, but she wanted to be anything but her mother’s idea of a successful American. Throughout the story, she’s determined to be herself. This determination leads to her rebellion against her mother’s ideas, which eventually puts a stop to the idea of a prodigy. “Two Kinds” demonstrates different forms of conflict which helped the narrator realize that her mother’s antics were to help her find what she was good at. The narrator conquers the twoness in her life after eighteen years by using the conflicts of her past. They lead to her maturation and development as a writer, which allows for her to reconfigure the battles with her mother.
Twoness is “the fact or condition of being two or doubleness” (Oxford Dictionary). Twoness is also known as duality which is “the condition or fact of being dual or consisting of two parts or natures” (Oxford Dictionary). Conflict is “a competitive or opposing action of incompatible, or antagonistic state or action (as of divergent ideas, interest, or persons). It’s a mental struggle that resulted from incompatible or opposing needs, drives, wishes, or external or internal demands; along with the opposition of person or forces that gives rise to the dramatic in drama or fiction” (Oxford Dictionary).
One indication of conflict is the cultural difference between the narrator and her mother. Her mother was born and lived her life in China, while the first-person narrator was born and raised in America. America is known as the land of opportunity and the land of dreams, which gave her mother the idea that the first-person narrator could be a prodigy. In other words, from the mother’s point of view, the narrator could be whatever she put her mind to. Her mother came to San Francisco, a place that gave the opportunity for all to make a life for themselves. Her mother believed “you could be anything you wanted to be in America. You could open a restaurant. You could work for the government and get a good retirement. You could buy a house with almost no money down. You could become rich. You could become famous” (129). However, the narrator disagreed. She didn’t see it was possible to become highly successful, and that’s because she was raised in America. So, the perception of success wasn’t huge in her mind. So, since the narrator hadn’t experienced a form of tragedy or struggle it hindered her from realizing that with time and effort triumph is possible.
A second indication was the desires the mother had for the narrator. The mother wanted for her daughter to be successful, but her idea of success was solely depicted by what she would view in magazines and on television. “She would present new tests, taking her examples from stories of amazing children that she read in Ripley’s Believe It or Not or Good Housekeeping, Reader’s Digest, or any of a dozen other magazines she kept in a pile in our bathroom” (130). The narrator’s mother wasn’t aware that the push for her daughter to be a prodigy was unsuccessful, and that’s because the mother felt as if a prodigy could be made. Yet, in actually a person isn’t made into a prodigy they are born a prodigy.
A third indication of strife was the narrator’s battle the idea of success. To achieve success at the highest level for which the narrator is capable gave her the sense of striving for perfection. “Sometimes the prodigy in me became impatient.” “If you don’t hurry up and get me out of here, I’m disappearing for good,” it warned. “And then you’ll always be nothing” (130). The narrator’s thought of nothing was based on how her mother raised her. The idea of a disappointment formed in her head, and that’s because of her mother’s push for a prodigy to emerge from within her. The idea of no achievement made it harder for her as she grew up, and that is because of the extensive test her mother would give her throughout dinner. “One night I had to look at the Bible for three minutes and then report everything I could remember. “Now Jehoshaphat had riches and honor in abundance and…that’s all I remember, Ma.” I said. “And after seeing, once again, my mother’s disappointed face, something inside me began to die” (130). The narrator’s thought of failure in the eyes of her mother made it harder for her to look at herself. Yet the idea of failure is what granted her to see a prodigy within, and allowed for her to analyze herself. The narrator’s analysis gave her the perception that what her mother envisioned for her to become wasn’t meant to be. She was to become her own person that had a purpose that wasn’t to entertain, but to live life and become what makes her happy.
A fourth indication of dispute was she began to see she didn’t want to become what her mother wanted and believed as perfect, but to be who she wanted to be. Therefore, her own belief of what is perfect meant she wouldn’t be a movie star, genius, or a piano player. The narrator’s outlook is due to her lack of awareness of what her mother wanted to accomplish and leads to the narrator’s emotional outburst. “Why don’t you like me for who I am?” … I’m not a genius! I can’t play the piano… “Who asked you to be a genius?” … “Only ask you be your best. For you sake. You think I want you to be genius? … What for! Who ask you?!” (132). She didn’t understand what exactly her mother was trying to do for her and her mother’s goal wasn’t shown properly. The goal her mother wanted was for her to be the best, and that translated in the narrator mind as being a person who is a genius: an “innate intellectual or creative power of an exceptional or exalted type, such as is attributed to those people considered greatest in any area of art, science, etc.; instinctive and extraordinary capacity for imaginative creation, original thought, invention, or discovery” (Oxford dictionary). The narrator felt as if she couldn’t live to her mother’s standards, due to her not being able to do what her mother expected from her when given the many tests and not being successful at play the piano.
The fifth indication of conflict was her immaturity. She no longer believed in what her mother wanted and so she wanted to prove her wrong. The urge to prove her mother wrong caused her to not learn the song “Pleading Child” for the piano recital. Not learning the song fully resulted in her embarrassing herself in front of an audience, and caused her to get angry with her mother and say, “I wish I’d never been born!” I shouted. “I wish I were dead! Like them” (137). Those few words are what affected her mother emotionally and mentally, but she didn’t see the effect of “I wish I were dead! Like them” due to her being twelve. This statement left her with the feeling of being content with the idea that she got out of her mother’s urge to form her into what she doesn’t want to be, yet there was no longer a push for her to be anything.
By the end of the story, after eighteen years of maturing, she realized after her mother’s death that her mother helped her find a place in the world, and finding her place allowed for her to create her own identity. “I opened the lid and touched the keys. It sounded even richer than I remembered. Really. It was a very good piano… “Pleading Child”. It looked more difficult than I remembered. I played a few bars, surprised at how easily the notes came back to me…I noticed the piece on the right-hand side. It was called “Perfectly Contented”. I tried to play this one as well…And after I had played them both a few times, I realized they were two halves of the same song” (138). In other words, she discovers in that what her mother wanted from her as a child wasn’t as hard as it seemed, but the fact that she was stubborn and young caused the process to be long and tedious. She was able to see that her mother’s tests and strive for her to be a prodigy was for her to become something in life that was worth being, and someone who she herself was satisfied with becoming.
The conflicts that the narrator experiences growing up helped create who she is, a writer. The writer within her wouldn’t have flourished if it wasn’t for the help and the conflicts with her mother, and she learned this after she matured over the years. Her life and what she experienced growing up with her mother inspired her to become who she wanted to be. Her finding who she wanted to be allowed for her to be good at something that represents and expresses who she is, and what she believes in as a person. As the narrator grew up, she wasn’t able to see her mother’s intentions. Therefore, she saw her mother exploiting antics that were in a sense unimportant at the time, but now that she looks back she realizes that is was all for the purpose of her making a life for herself.
Understanding of Culture in Who’s Irish, Two Kinds and Everything that Rises Must Converge Novels
This essay will effectively highlight the overall importance as well as generalized impact of “Cultural Differences” in addition to, “gaps” in ideologies between generations as well as the overall importance of remaining “true” to yourself while at the same time remaining loyal to family.
By its own definition “Culture” is best defined as a collection of beliefs, behaviours, objects, practices, shared values and other characteristics common to members of a specific group or segment/population of society”(Little, W. (2015, July 21). With regards to the texts readings entitled “Who’s Irish?” By Gish Jen, as well as “Two Kinds” by Amy Tan & “Everything That Rises Must Converge” by Flannery O’Conner there are several well noticeable references to not only wanting keep in line with “traditional” beliefs, values and “virtues” but also highlight the potential “clashes” which can take place between those whom have officially adopted a “different” way of life in direct comparison to those whom chose to embrace their “cultural roots, beliefs, values and ways of life.
To being with, the work entitled, “Who’s Irish?” By Gish Jen, is a fantastic example of not only the overall impact of cultural differences as highlighted by the statements made by the native Chinese Grandmother (almost 80 years old) with regards to her “Son in Law”. Some of the main “cultural difference” are conveyed when the Chinese Grandmother open up and reveals her true feelings about the differences. As stated in the story, as grandmother highlighted that despite her Son in Laws mother being a hard worker, she has four male children specifically, “four brothers in the family, not one of them work, but instead receive so-called severance pay or disability pay” (Gish, J., & Alfred A. Knopf, Publisher. (1999). Furthermore, the largest “irrefutable “evidence of an expression of cultural differences highlights the sadness in which the Chinese Grandmother experiences in the quote “Sophie is three years old American age, but already I see her nice Chinese side swallowed up by her wild Shea side.”(Gish, J., & Alfred A. Knopf, Publisher. (1999). Still, there are more instances relating to the overall impact as it pertains to this specific story. For example, the overall impact of the cultural combination of both the Chinese grandmother’s family as well as the Shea Family. This is clearly made noticeable in the highly awkward conversation between both grandmothers by which the “skin color” of their “Brown” grandchild was the main discussion of the conversation in addition to the mentioning of John’s mother commenting on Race and stating that, “I was never against the marriage, I never thought John was marrying down. I always thought “Nattie” was just as good as white.” (Gish, J., & Alfred A. Knopf, Publisher. (1999).
Meanwhile, some examples of “Gaps” in the ideologies between “Generations” in this story focuses on “Spanking”, stated by the Chinese Grandmother, “You spank her, she’ll stop, I say another day. But they say, Oh no. In America, parents not supposed to spank the child. It gives them low self-esteem, my daughter say” (Gish, J., & Alfred A. Knopf, Publisher. (1999). Of course the grandmother end up “spanking” her granddaughter despite having being told not to by both her daughter and son in law. Fortunately, both mother & daughter “Bond” was not broken & the spanking proved correct as the children behaviour was corrected. Most importantly Natalie didn’t walk out on her mother (Grandmother, 80) despite, her brother in laws asking when her mother was going to be sent back to China, of which Natalie defended and is highly “Loyal” to her Chinese mother, boldly exclaiming that all house visitors & family members know that her Chinese mother (Grandma) is here (in the home) to stay. The latter act is a direct display of “Reverence” from daughter to her mother because, “in China, daughter take care of mother” (Gish, J., & Alfred A. Knopf, Publisher. (1999), the complete and utter opposite of American values which stress the “individual” over the “family”.
However, in the story entitled, “Two Kinds” by Amy Tan” there is much more conflict between mother & daughter and indeed is a “push” & “pull” relationship. This story involved a mother who wanted her daughter to succeed in becoming a so called “Prodigy”. As indicated by the main character’s (the mother’s) Daughter. Specifically the cultural difference in this story is that for the most part, the Daughter (Two Kinds, Tan) has become somewhat more “Americanised” than her other family (counterparts) including her Chinese mother. For instance, the young daughter just wants to sit and watch television instead of practicing on a piano which she (at first) had no genuine interest in, but I believe grew close to it as it symbolized the “will” of her mother to help “drive/inspire” her to try her best.
According to the daughter in the story, “My mother believed you could be anything you wanted to be in America, open a restaurant, work for the government , get a good retirement, buy a house with almost no money down, could become rich and even instantly famous” (Tan, A. (1989). Two Kinds). However, her daughters view about herself was vastly different as stated, “Unlike my mother, I did not believe I could be anything I wanted to be, I could only be me.” (Tan, A. (1989). Two Kinds). This was clearly a distinctly different “perception” of two different ideologies between mother & daughter. As mother had grew up in China living in a “fantasy” in China but in her daughters generation, opportunities in America had changed with no reliable “boom” in the economy like her mother generation. According to the texts, “America was where all my mother’s hopes lay. She had come to San Francisco in 1949 after losing everything in China: her mother and father, her home, her first husband, and two daughters, twin baby girls. But she never looked back with regret” (Tan, A. (1989). Two Kinds).
Still, the daughter was “true” to herself because, she eventually went on to peruse her own genuine interests, yet also remained loyal to her family especially her late mother who by then had pass away, by not only “restoring” the old piano that her parents worked so hard to earn for her practice lessons (not to mention her mother bartering her piano lessons in exchange for her weekly cleaning services).
Finally, in the “Everything That Rises Must Converge” by Flannery O’Conner texts, To begin with, the “Gap” between the two characters (mother & son (Julian) is that both individuals lived in two different time periods one of which was marked by tremendous “social progress” and the other generation, by a long string of Banking thefts, & Global Recessions. Julian is bracing for the possibility of not being able to obtain “steady employment”. This is “confirmed” when Julian states in the readings that, “Someday, I’ll start making money,” Julian said gloomily- he knew he never would” (O’Connor, Everything That Rises Must Converge, 1967). Despite his mother assuring him otherwise by telling Julian “I think you’re doing fine,” “You’ve only been out of school a year. Rome wasn’t built in a day”, and that “It takes time the world is in such a mess” (O’Connor, Everything That Rises Must Converge, 1967).Indeed Julian is able to correct his mother and offer her a piece of his mind by telling her that, “Knowing who you are is good for one generation only, you haven’t the foggiest idea where you stand now or who you are” (O’Connor, Everything That Rises Must Converge, 1967). I believe the latter comments can also apply to the “highly racial “comments made by Julian’s mother while as Julian was only stressing to his mother how times had changed. Especially as it pertained to his family despite at one point and time owning “His great-grand-father had a plantation and two hundred slaves, his grandmother being a “Godhigh” & his Grandfather being a prosperous landowner” (O’Connor, Everything That Rises Must Converge,1967).In this conversation, Julian is also expressing massive “cultural differences” between his mother whom has entirely different “beliefs” and seems proud of their family history, especially when she racially remarks, relating to Blacks such as “They were better off when they were, They should rise, yes, but on their own side of the fence.” (O’Connor, Everything That Rises Must Converge, 1967). Julian also seems more “Humble” in contrast to his older mother especially when the old family mansion is brought up. Specifically, it is Julian whom mutters while in transport, “Doubtless that decayed mansion reminded them, as he never spoke of it without contempt or thought of it without longing.” (O’Connor, Everything That Rises Must Converge, 1967). Still, his mother talked about how the mansion belonged to the “God highs” until Grandfather Chestny paid for the mortgage and saved it for them” (O’Connor, Everything That Rises Must Converge, 1967). It is clear that Julian’s mother also has an issue with finances as she was struggling to decide rather or not to purchase a purple hat over paying an electric/gas bill. Julian is both Loyal to his mother because he loves her, understands her needs and knows the overall importance of family, which is you take the “Good” with the “Bad”
All three of these readings contain more than just the aforementioned /direct quotes taken from textual excerpts, as there are plenty more not highlighted within this essay but are still contained within the stories themselves. Nevertheless, all quotes have been well supported with arguments pertaining to their overall under meanings.