A Mother/Daughter Conflict in Amy Tan's "Two Kinds" and "Best Quality".

Only available on StudyMode
  • Download(s): 426
  • Published: August 23, 2005
Read full document
Text Preview
Amy Tan's "Two Kinds" and "Best Quality" depict a struggling and often stressful relationship between a defiant daughter and an overbearing mother. June Mei and her mother Suyuan engage in a destructive battle between what is possible and what is realistic. June, although headstrong, seeks her mother's approval and adoration. Suyuan, although patronizing, yearns for her daughter's obedience and best qualities. The relationship between mother and daughter falls victim to tension inherent in any mother/daughter struggle, especially between first-generation American daughters and their immigrant mothers (Yglesias 1). Their inability to understand one another largely stems from cultural differences; Suyuan is a Chinese woman who flees to America for a better life, while June is destined to demonstrate her self-worth as a Chinese-American. Due to distressed communicational nets, June and Suyuan maintain a staggering relationship, which ultimately ends in Suyuan's poignant acceptance of her daughter's individuality and cultural evolution.

One of the most prominent cultural barriers June and Suyuan suffer from is communication. Suyuan remains a cultural alien in America because she is a first generation immigrant from mainland China (Xu 3). As a result, Suyuan speaks Chinese and broken English, while June speaks English and fractured Chinese. Furthermore, the communication barrier seems to be two-fold: between generations and cultures (Shear 194). The first generational and cultural gap materializes in "Two Kinds" when June announces her adolescent defiance by saying, "Why don't you like me the way I am? I'm not a genius!" Her overbearing mother retorts in her fragile English, "Who ask you be genius? Only ask you be your best. For you sake ..." (Tan 597). This short dialogue is extremely significant as it reveals the cultural tension between Suyuan and June, thus causing a bitter mother/daughter conflict. June's difficulty in comprehending her mother echoes Suyuan's frustration at her inability to pass on the benefits of her accumulated wisdom and experience (Rubin 13). Suyuan's frail English, concurrent with June's adolescent will to defy her mother, illustrate the communication and culture nets they must overcome.

Another example of their shared dilemma begins with June's timid reaction to her mother's offering of her life's importance twenty years later in "Best Quality." Suyuan offers June her "life's importance," a jade pendant on a gold chain (Tan 221). Cultural and generational gaps illuminate the root of June's uncertainty about this jade pendant Suyuan gives her after a Chinese New Year crab dinner. June reveals her bewilderment when she notices a bartender wearing a similar pendant. After asking him of its origin, he replies with, "My mother gave it to me after I got divorced ... I think she's trying to tell me I'm still worth something." June reflects, "I knew by the wonder in his voice that he had no idea what the pendant really meant" (222). This dialogue suggests there is a deeper, sadder miscommunication between June and her deceased mother. As June ascertains the meaning of Suyuan's poignant offering by asking her aunties, her mother's closest friends, she realizes "they would tell me a meaning that is different from what my mother intended" (222). Conversations with her "aunties" remind June of painful distances: "My mother and I never really understood one another. We translated each other's meanings and I seemed to hear less than what was said, while my mother heard more" (Cheng 12). Her revelation is frightening, as she feels her mother's words will be lost in a sea of translations and interpretations. This realization, although exacerbating her quest to gather her life's importance, simultaneously opens her mind to the "Chinese" culture, thus slowly closing the cultural and generational gap felt between mother and daughter.

Before reaching a blissful state of certainty, the pleasure of a life-altering...
tracking img