Reading Response to “Two Kinds”

I found Amy Tan’s short story, “Two Kinds”, to be an emotional and touching story. The protagonist is a young girl named Ni Kan. She receives a lot of pressure from her mother to be a prodigy. Ni Kan feels like she always disappoints her mother and will never be able to live up to her expectations. In the beginning of the story Ni Kan seems to have very low self esteem in the beginning of the story. Until one day after a fight with her mother she stares at her own reflection an promises herself that she wouldn’t let her mother change her into someone she’s not. I was surprised to read that a girl at such a young age would come to this realization and have the courage to stand up to er mother. I wonder why the mother was always trying to change Ni Kan into one of those prodigy children they saw on TV. It seems like she idolized these children. I also think that it had something to do with her own self esteem. If her child was a prodigy, she would had been the mother of a prodigy, quite an accomplishment in itself. Ni Kan’s mother always seemed to belittle other talented children. She never gave Ni Kan any encouraging words. I’m sure the fact that Ni Kan’s mother lost her family in China had something to do with her treatment towards Ni Kan. It was very sad to read that Ni Kan and her mother had a dysfunctional relationship. They always fought with each other. However, it was evident that Ni Kan’s mother loved Ni Kan and just simply wanted her to be the best she could be. Unfortunately Ni Kan’s mother

NOTE: I previously had the responses to “Who’s Irish?” and “Two Kinds” in one post. I just separated the two responses in two separate posts.

Two Kinds

This story centers on the idea figuring out what is best for someone else. This is often a major conflict between parents and their children. One side tries to show the other that their way is best and it should be taken seriously. Sadly if the other side does not comply or does not fully comprehend then chaos is sure to follow after. It is only when both sides can reason with each other that suitable solution is found that satisfies both ends.

In “Two Kinds” the protagonist, Jing Mei, is the daughter of a woman whose life has been filled with hardship and sacrifice. She wants the best for her daughter and wants her to have a better life for the future. She feels her method of testing and pushing her daughter to be the best will help her to succeed and bring her dream to reality. At a young age Jing is willing and compliant to follow but as she grows she begins to develop a sense of individuality that is conflicting with her mother’s wishes. It soon becomes a battle of Chinese driven work ethic versus American style individuality. Jing’s rebellious spirit wins out the power struggle at the disappointment of her mother as she has failed as an influence. For a while their relationship is uneasy until the mother reintroduces the piano to Jing but not as a means of forcing it upon her. The mother explains that she can still play the piano because it has become part of her, it is her identity. Jing realizes that her mother wanted to bring out Jing’s own identity all along in order for her to have her own success in the future.

Response to Two Kinds

After reading the first two pages of this story, I thought that it would be about a parent trying to exploit their child, which it was, but I felt so sympathetic for it. On the third paragraph of the first page, we learn that the mother of the main character has lost some close family members and their family home in China. With a past like that, which parent wouldn’t want the best for their child?

However, the more I read the story, the less sympathetic I felt for the mother and the more i felt for the daughter. She made her daughter try to play the piano, which I don’t have a problem with, but even though she played badly in the talent show, her mother shouldn’t be disappointed. Afterwards, I found out what the title of the story meant when the daughter and her mother got into an argument about her not wanting to replay the piano. The mother claims that they are only two kinds of daughters, those who are obedient and those who are not. Even though the daughter seemed disobedient when refusing to play the piano again, I still felt sympathetic towards her and not the mother, even to the end of the story.

I personally think that it’s wrong to exploit your child to better own life. The mother of this story should’ve just let her daughter do whatever she wanted to do instead of restricting her. Overall though, I actually liked this story because of the character’s relationship with her mother and how she had to put up with her expectations.

Two Kinds

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A key point I picked up upon reading this story was the impact assimilation can have on a person. Two Kinds by Amy Tan, tells the story about a foreign Chinese mother, who’s own past makes her want to raise her daughter up as an all new kind of “American Child Star”; the Chinese Shirley Temple. Her daughter further on explains that, “America was where all my mother’s hopes lay [had laid]. She had come here in 1949 after losing everything in China”(Tan 1222). I definitely see this as the mother’s way of trying to make it big in America, as too much trouble sprouts from China; at least in her case. I also reflect this off of the historical period that America had been going through…segregation, whites on top, minors below. On these terms, it appeared as if the mother wanted her daughter to be accepted in America’s white society, ex. She chose Shirley Temple as a teacher figure for her daughter and was willing to place curls, similar to Shirley’s, inside of her own daughter’s hair; thereby awakening the “prodigy” in the daughter. This would back up the point in which the author states as a being a myth, though in my opinion, debatable as truth. “…America is a melting pot, but what happens in assimilation is that we end up deliberately choosing the American things–hot dogs and apple pie–and ignoring the Chinese offerings”(Tan 1221).

Later on we seem to see the daughter’s “assimilation” turn against her mother in a negative way . She was corresponding to the American change, but not in the way the mother had hoped for. We witness the daughter say, “I didn’t have to do what my mother said anymore…This wasn’t China”(Tan 1228).This comment had me laugh. To myself, I was like she’s beginning to get reckless. This was beginning to show that while the mother was trying to settle her daughter in, she didn’t realize how much of an impact America’s freedom would have on her child.

Two Kinds

Society in general can reflect a lot of influences upon others and this is evident in Two Kinds. The narrator Amy, has a very complex relationship with her mother. Her mother has the plan for Amy to be a successful music prodigy and believes “that you could be anything you wanted to be in America,”  but constant failures to convince her mother that she was poised for success took its toll on Amy and one night she looked herself in the mirror started crying and came to the conclusion that it was time for a change.

Prior to her change in attitude, Amy felt pressured into playing the piano and knew deep down that this was not what she wanted to do. While Amy was sitting down in the living room one day, her mother approached her to notify her it was time to practice the piano. Nonchalantly she refused and thought to herself that her mother was not the boss of her and she wasn’t a slave of her mother’s so it’s okay to say to no. Amy was really content on her decision to quit the journey of becoming a musical prodigy.

There are always opportunities available for someone to be successful, some may have a few more than others, but as I reiterate it is never good to be blinded by just one path or goal as you should have backup plans in place in case things don’t pan out the way they should.

Two Kinds- Amy Tan

From my understanding of the story, the narrator’s mother was an overbearing mother who saw potential in her daughter. Due to the wars in 1949, the mother left China because she lost everything back in China. Before the war, she had a husband, two daughters, mother and father who died during the tyranny in China. The narrator’s mother remarried and gave birth to another daughter. She made sure that she will do anything in her power to make her daughter become productive in life. The narrator’s mother called her daughter her own child prodigy. They would watch the “Chinese Shirley Temple” as practice to established what was talent. While watching the Ed Sullivan show, another child prodigy came on the show and played the piano. The talent in that child enlightened the mother in purchasing a piano so that Ni Kan would able to play just as good as the girl on TV. The narrator’s mother hired Mr. Chong aka Old Chong to tutor Ni Kan in piano lessons. Like Ni Kan who is impatient when it came to her studies, took advantage of Old Chong disabilities such as partially blind and have bad hearing. Ni would play incorrect notes during her sessions because she knew that Old Chong would say that everything she was doing is correct. The narrator’s mother signed her up for school talent show thinking with all the practicing she have been doing, she would be a semi expert pianist. At the talent show, they ran into Auntie Lindo, Uncle Tin, cousin Waverly. Ni and Waverly have been rivals since birth and this talent show would prove whose the better child. During Waverly performance, she was flawless. As for Ni, she became confident with lack of experience. She believe that since her mother have been calling her a prodigy, they prodigy in her would come out during her performance. When she got on the piano, she played a couple notes and everything went well until she missed one note. She thought no one noticed but everyone did. That perfect pitch she was hearing in her mind was only her confidence blinding her. Old Chong applauded her but he is partially deaf. The embarrassment that the narrator had was nothing but straight disappointment. She locked herself in the room and didn’t say anything to anyone. One day while Ni is watching TV during her practice time, The mother yelled at her and Ni responded by saying ” you want me to be someone that I’m not!” Ni felt like her mom pressures her harder than any parent does due to the fact she lost her two girls in China. “Only two kinds of daughters…Those who are obedient and those who follow their own! Only one kind of daughter can live in this house. Obedient Daughter!” Years later after that fight, Ni’s mother pasted and the piano still stayed at her parent’s house. Ni tuned up the piano and one day found herself playing “Perfectly Contented and Pleading Child”. By the way she was playing, you would never knew that she stopped playing all those years. Ni Kan finally realized the potential her mother saw all those years ago.

“Two Kinds”

A girl whom ,as a child, was told she could be the best at anything she wanted. The only issue was that she thought that she would become a prodigy without any work. She just wanted to instantly become great at something. Her mother was her motivator, and she made do tests everyday to see if she was good at anything. The girl soon decided to do be herself and not work to be the best. This was a poor decision.

Once the girl decided to no longer be something she wasn’t, she lost motivation. She didn’t take things seriously and never tried. Her mother got her piano lessons, but the girl took advantage of the fact that her teacher was deaf. She didn’t practice and constantly made mistakes. All she needed to do is to try to do well. She kept putting herself down, saying that she won’t ever be a prodigy. She wanted an easy way when there wasn’t one.

Two Kinds by Amy Tan

I believe in both Two Kinds and Who’s Irish have something similar, parents in Asian culture always want their children to have a good future and always become someone other than their born to be. i am Asian myself, i may not be Chinese but i surely can relate to their feelings. I had to always bring in top grades or i always had to top the other kids my parents talked about. It came to a point where to them i was nothing then just someone to boost their morale for. In front of their friends they used to speak about how my grades are and that I am doing far better. i detested my parents when they did that because they wouldn’t understand if i really wanted to do this at all. if i didn’t bring good results consequences would follow.

I didn’t have a hard time accepting the american culture when i first arrived in United States. I was embracing this new culture instead of isolating myself from it. While my Parents saw this as a danger to their kids. not just my parents but also the people they knew felt the same way. Once I was old enough to decide my own future. Anything i would do, they would not like it. they would blame the american culture for making the way i am. in truth i wish in future Not just my parents but to those that comes from a different background can accept american culture. I hope they can take it positively and wish no one else has to suffer like the way they suffered.

 

Two Kinds by Amy Tan

Two kinds talks about the conflict Jing-mei–who is also the narrator–and her mother had when they first came to America in 1949. As an immigrant myself I understand the struggle the transition they had to experience and how they had to manage with what the country has to offer. Jing-mei’s mother saw her daughter as an escape route and a form of bragging her daughter to other Chinese women, for example in page 1226 when she was speaking to Auntie Lindo–her mothers friend–outside of church, they were both bragging about how special their daughters were.

This story i had a hard time empathizing with because although i am an immigrant but my family doesn’t treat their children in this way, yes they want the best for them and they apply pressure in order for it to be done but they give room for expression and exploration to what they want to become. I didn’t like the way Jing-mei behaved toward her mother, she was doing everything wrong the best that she could in order to disappoint her mother. After her mom lost everything in china, her first husband, her daughter and twin baby girls, Jing-mei being her only daughter right now should feel the need to comfort her mother and try to keep her happy. Her mother did everything to get her daughter opportunities that most kids don’t get to experience and she still managed to do these things even when she couldn’t afford to do so.

Jing-mei was determine to find her own voice in America, in which she had the right because in America that is what is promoted, yet her mom felt that she knew what her daughter should be in life. When making her an all-knowing genius didn’t work , her mother turned to the piano ignoring her daughters pleading against it. This strongly show’s how a culture can clash with one another, Jing-mei’s mother still kept the Chinese customs that the children should always be obedient and have to do everything that the parents command of them to do, and Jing-mei obtained the American attitude that you have all the years to discover yourself and figure out what you want to do, and rebel and fight for what you believe in. Even though she took it to an extreme when in page 1228 she snapped at her mother telling her she wishes she wasn’t her daughter and that she should of died with everyone else who died in China.

What i didn’t like is trying to keep up with the years that passed, it wasn’t clear when she mentioned “In the years that followed”, well how many years exactly? I wanted to know at what age she became mature enough to understand her mother and why she did what she did. The way she announced her mothers death showed very little sentimental value in her heart, she expressed her mothers passing with her saying that she needed to recondition the piano that her mom gave her and expressed she did it for pure sentimental reasons, yet didn’t feel the need to mention her moms passing for more than two lines in the story–it just showed she did not care, or at least not enough.

When she finally got the nerve to touch the piano she finally realized something her mother was trying to show her all along, how two different things could join together in harmony.

It was a good read, i just didn’t like the selfishness of Jing-mei and how she snapped and broke her mothers heart, it clashes with my strong feelings about families staying together, being strong and helping each other.

Two Kinds

I feel like the mother in this short story resembles most mothers out there. One who wants their child to be the best that they can be. Since at such a young age they cannot see this for themselves, the mother pushes them to do certain things they might not want to. The main character’s mother told her ” Only two kinds of daughters, those who are obedient and those who follow their own mind! Only one kind of daughter can live in this house” (pg. 1228) Even though it may seem as if the mother is forcing the daughter she really is not. She is just trying to ignite something from deep within her daughter, so her daughter can see that she is destine for good things. I feel this because the opening sentence of the short story states. “My mother believed you could be anything you wanted to be in America.” This shows that her mother is trying to show her daughter to be what she pleases, not what she is told to be, yet at the same time to be obedient.

I feel like through out the story there is a transition on the main character’s demeanor. She goes from the believe that her mother was forcing things upon her, to seeing her mother as someone who always maintained the hope that she will strive. I feel like this transition becomes evident when the main character says “And worse. I never asked her what frightened me the most. Why had she given up hope?” (pg1229)  Even though there was a rebellious girl in the main character, she always secretly liked that her mother pushed her to be things she herself though she couldn’t be. Even the conversion following the above quote, you can see that the mother still had not given up hope, and this realization made the main character feel “proud, as if it were “a shiny trophy I had won back.”(pg1229) Even though she means the piano resembles her trophy. I think she means the actual trophy is gaining her mother’s hope back, the believe that she can still be the “genius” she was meant to be.