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.
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