Conflicts in Two Kinds by Amy Tan

Topics: Piano, Guilt, Piano pedagogy Pages: 2 (652 words) Published: June 15, 2010
Jing-mei’s story also deals with a clash between a mother’s faith and belief in persistence versus a daughter’s inner sense of futility. Jing-mei believes that she is simply not “fated” to be a prodigy, that ultimately there resides within her an unchangeable element of mediocrity. When she tells her reflection in the mirror one night that she will not allow her mother to change her, that she will not try to be what she is not, she asserts her will in a strong but negative manner. At that moment, she recalls, she saw the “prodigy side” of herself in the anger and determination that were in her face. This comment suggests that “prodigy” is really one’s will, one’s desire to succeed. In retrospect, Jing-mei muses that perhaps she never gave herself a chance at the piano because she never devoted her will to trying. Neither Jing-mei nor Suyuan is completely to blame for the piano recital disaster. It is Suyuan’s incessant nagging and insinuations regarding her daughter’s inadequacies that partially drive Jing-mei to refuse to practice seriously. The pain Jing-mei feels after the recital stems not just from her own failure but also from her shame in having disappointed her mother. This shame will persist into her adult life, as she continues to fall short of her mother’s expectations. Perhaps Jing-mei’s shame in fact stems from her guilt in having willed her own failure. Suyuan’s inflated expectations and excessive pressure backfire, contributing to Jing-mei’s failure to achieve what she might have achieved if left to herself. Yet, at the same time, the disastrous piano recital also testifies to the power of Suyuan’s love for Jing-mei, and to her faith in her daughter’s ability. The immense energy that Suyuan devotes to the search for Jing-mei’s “inner prodigy”—cleaning for her piano teacher, saving up for a used piano—demonstrates that her motivations probably lie deeper than the promise of bragging rights at church each Sunday. Many years later, Jing-mei realizes...
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