Analyzing Short Stories

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"Two Kinds" by Amy Tan
The story "Two Kinds," by Amy Tan is just one of the stories about the relationship between mothers and daughters in the book, The Joy Luck Club. We start this story with a mother, a Chinese immigrant to the United States, telling her American born daughter, Jing-mei, at a very young age that she can become anything she wants to become in America; more specifically, a prodigy of some sort. We witness the mother's search for what kind of prodigy she will turn her daughter into and at the same time we see the sorts of tests she puts her daughter through in her quest to make something of her. Jing-mei quickly grows tired and annoyed with her mother's judgmental pursuits to turn her into something she is not. Regardless, her mother persists and finally decides that her daughter will become a famous pianist. Jing-mei is immediately put into lessons and the family purchases a used piano. All of this comes to an ugly head when, after months of "practicing," her mother signs Jing-mei up for a talent show competition and to her mother's embarrassment Jing-mei shows once and for all that she is no child prodigy. This particular story deals with a mother's struggle to come to terms with her own Chinese heritage at the same time as she attempts to instill certain values in her American daughter. The central idea is that with the inherent differences between an immigrant parent and their first generation American child, can come friction between their thinking.

The main character in this story is the daughter, Jing-mei. Other than that, her mother and her piano teacher, Mr. Chong, are the only other characters with large enough roles to merit discussion. Jing-mei is the narrator of the story and we learn a lot about her, her mother, and their relationship through her account of their interaction when she was young. We learn about Jing-mei through indirect presentation because we are not told specifically about her traits but rather learn about her through her actions. She is a round and dynamic character. The most notable aspect of her character is her initial desire to please her mother and make her proud but how quickly her desire to fulfill those lofty expectations turned to shame and feelings of inadequacy when the reality set in that she was not extraordinary and simply being in America would not make her that way. These feelings are explained when she says, "And after seeing my mother's disappointed face once again, something inside me began to die" (Tan 195). Jing-mei is strong willed in the sense that she stands up to her mother's pressure and decides she cannot be someone she is not; she can only be who she is. She is dynamic insofar as that by the end of the story we know she is all grown up and now understands why her mother acted the way she did. Instead of being hurt and angry about it like she was as a young girl, she has forgiven her mother and no longer feels negatively about the way her mother pressured her. Jing-mei's mother is also a round and dynamic character. We learn that her tragic past in China is what gives her hope that in her American future, anything is possible. She uses her daughter to show this and as a second chance for the things she could not achieve. What is really just a mother wanting the best for her child gets read as a hard and overbearing woman. And finally, Mr. Chong is a minor character who is static and flat. He is there just to facilitate Jing-mei's rebellion against her mother and because he is mostly deaf and blind it makes it really easy for her to not excel at piano.

The main conflict in this story is the struggle between Jing-mei and her mother for Jing-mei to become what her mother wants her to be vs. becoming a woman on her own. This conflict is key in understanding the central idea because it shows the inherent and unavoidable differences that come up between a mother and daughter with essentially two completely different heritages. Because of her...
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