A Mothers Dream in Amy Tan’s Story “Two Kinds”

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Mothers play a crucial role in shaping the identity of children, as acknowledged by many kids. Good mothers have a strong desire to provide their children with the best and are willing to go to great lengths to achieve this goal. In “Two Kinds,” a story by Amy Tan, there is a conflict of intentions between the protagonist, a young girl of Chinese-American descent, and her mother, an immigrant from China.

The story “Two Kinds” explores the protagonist Jing-mei’s struggle to establish her own identity while facing her determined mother’s ambition for her to become a “prodigy.” Jing-mei’s mother, Suyuan, strongly believes in the American Dream and is convinced that with dedication, Jing-mei can achieve anything she desires in this country. Suyuan’s aspiration stems from her desire to shield her daughter from the hardships and tragedies she endured in China. However, Jing-mei does not share her mother’s ambition and prefers to embrace life as it unfolds, expressing her belief that she can only be herself rather than striving for greatness or validation. (Tan 679)

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Suyuan’s belief in the power of accomplishment leads her to use her daughter as a means of proving it. She constantly gives Jing-mei various tests and eventually pushes her into taking piano lessons, which becomes Suyuan’s main focus in molding her into the ‘perfect daughter’. During her lessons, Jing-mei realizes that she can deceive her deaf teacher and pretend to be learning, but her lack of practice eventually becomes evident. Jing-mei participates in a talent show and is supposed to perform a piece called “Pleading Child”, but her recital turns out to be awful.

Both Jing-mei and Suyuan bear some responsibility for the piano recital disaster. Suyuan’s constant nagging and insinuations about her daughter’s flaws play a role in Jing-mei’s decision to not practice seriously. The pain Jing-mei experiences after the recital is not only due to her own failure, but also because she has disappointed her mother. Suyuan’s high expectations and excessive pressure backfire and hinder Jing-mei from reaching her full potential. However, the disastrous recital also demonstrates Suyuan’s love for Jing-mei and her belief in her daughter’s abilities.

Suyuan’s tireless dedication to helping Jing-mei discover her inner prodigy, such as cleaning for her piano teacher and saving money for a used piano, suggests that her motivations go beyond simply seeking praise from the church every Sunday. With the passage of time, Jing-mei comes to understand that Suyuan’s efforts to find her prodigy were driven by her strong belief in her daughter’s abilities, rather than a desire to mold her into someone she wasn’t. Perhaps the embarrassment Suyuan felt after Jing-mei’s recital actually came from a sense of guilt for unintentionally causing her daughter’s failure.

Jing-mei’s narrative centers on a clash between her mother’s faith and perseverance, and Jing-mei’s own conviction of her innate mediocrity. While her mother maintains that Jing-mei possesses the capacity to excel remarkably, Jing-mei herself believes she is fated to be unremarkable and incapable of altering this outcome. In a moment of defiance, Jing-mei confronts her reflection in the mirror, decisively asserting that she will resist her mother’s influence and refuse to pretend to be someone she is not. This declaration reflects both determination and a pessimistic mindset.

Recalling the past, Jing-mei remembers seeing her prodigious side in the anger and determination reflected on her face. This observation implies that prodigy truly resides within one’s will and their desire to succeed. Looking back now, Jing-mei believes that she might have never fully committed herself to the piano because she never truly applied her will to giving it a try.

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A Mothers Dream in Amy Tan’s Story “Two Kinds”. (2019, Jan 08). Retrieved from


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