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.
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