Amy Tan's "Two Kinds"

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  • Topic: Amy Tan, Piano, Child prodigy
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  • Published : March 19, 2013
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Amy Tan’s “Two Kinds”
In “Two Kinds” Amy Tan uses a wide range of techniques and literary elements to demonstrate the true meaning behind the story. She incorporates similes and imagery to intertwine her story. “Two Kinds” is the last story in the second of four sections of Amy Tan’s immensely successful first book, The Joy Luck Club. The story is concerned with the complex relationships between mothers and daughters. Amy Tan tells the story, from the point of view of an adult looking back on her own childhood experiences and explores the clash of cultures between a first-generation Chinese-American daughter, Jing-Mei and her mother, Suyuan, a Chinese immigrant. She focuses and develops the tone, symbolism, language, and characters in the story which makes the story come alive. “Two Kinds” is a story based on the struggles of a young Chinese girl, Jing-Mei. Here is the protagonist and round character of the story. She is stubborn, rebellious, strong-willed and determined to live up to her mother’s expectations. Living in the United States with her overly pushy mother, she struggles to find her own sense of identity. Her troubles are compounded by her mother, who convinces her that she can become someone important. Jing-Mei’s mother, Suyuan, is the antagonist and flat character that remains stern, dominant and overbearing throughout the story. Suyuan pushes her daughter, Jing-Mei to become a child prodigy and believes “You could be anything you wanted to be in America” (Tan 193) The story’s main events take place in San Francisco’s Chinatown throughout the 1950’s and perhaps the early 1960’s. After “losing everything in China: her mother and father, her family house, her first husband, her two twin daughters” (Tan 193), Suyuan immigrates to America where all her hopes lay, striving and hoping for things to get better. The setting in America symbolizes opportunity. However, the location of America, Chinatown, contrasts with America. Chinatown is reminiscent of China and of the squalor and pain Jing-Mei’s mother escaped. Amy Tan uses dialect and setting to provide parallelism and contrast to the story’s action. The physical setting creates physiological that illuminates the conflict. Tan subtly manipulates the literary elements of setting and dialect to provide a deeper understanding of the short story’s theme. The story starts out with Jing-Mei explaining how her mother, Suyuan, always thought that she could become a child prodigy. Jing-Mei recalls several talents her mother tried to get her to develop in order to get her to be a “prodigy”. Jing-Mei was happy just being herself, but unfortunately, her mother had high expectations for her. Jing-Mei’s mother constantly pushed her to become famous. She thought that was what’s best for Jing-Mei. “Just like you,” she said, “Not the best because you are not trying. “ (Tan 199) She tried everything in her power to make Jing-Mei talented in some way. She pushes Jing-Mei right over the edge. At first, Jing-Mei’s mother decides that Jing-Mei can be a child actress, like Shirley Temple. To accomplish this, Suyuan takes Jing-Mei to a beauty training school. However, Jing-Mei came out the school looking like what Suyuan calls “Negro Chinese” (Tan 193). Jing-Mei was still confident that one day she would be a child prodigy that her mother would adore. Every night her mother would give her a series of tests corresponding to some amazing abilities that some children possessed in magazines she read. Some of the tests include standing on her head, memorizing capitals of countries, looking at a page of the Bible for three minutes to see what she remembers and predicting the daily temperatures in Los Angeles, New York, and London. After many failed tests in knowledge and skills, eventually, Jing-Mei grew tired of these tests and stopped trying. She quickly began to lose interest in her mother’s dream of being a prodigy and becomes stubborn. “I won’t let her change, I promised myself. I...
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