9 October 2018
Complicated Relationships between Mother and Daughter
In the short story of “Two Kinds,” written by Amy Tan in (1989), Tan describes conflict issues between mother and daughter have. Tan tells the story how the mother forces her daughter Jing-Mei to become a child prodigy without processing how her expectations lead to misunderstanding and discontent between her and Jing-Mei. When Jing-Mei could not succeed in becoming the child prodigy her mother wanted her to be. In the story, Tan stated how Jing-Mei was excited at first even more than her mother to become a child prodigy but later on, she got impatient by stating: “But sometimes the prodigy in me became impatient” (357). She could feel all the pressure her mother and this whole idea of becoming a prodigy was putting on her shoulders and didn’t allow her to find her true self and see how she could still be adored by her parents without reproaching all the hard work they have done for her. Tan describes a theme that seems to be about how the mother expectations lead to discontent, misunderstanding, and internal conflicts issues between her and Jing-Mei.
Tan describes at the beginning of the story how Jing-Mei is in fact excited as her mother about the whole prodigy idea: “In fact, in the beginning, I was just as excited as my mother, maybe even more so” (Tan 357). But later on Tan describes how the conflicts start to begin because the daughter starts to get impatient with the whole idea of becoming a prodigy after she fails to succeed and to see her mother’s disappointment faces. “And after seeing my mother’s disappointment face once again, something inside of me began to die” (Tan 358). Jing-Mei could no longer take the test her mother did to her, the raised hopes, and failed expectations she was always having after not succeeding. Jing-Mei describes how she will not allow her mother to change her, and she won’t be what she is not. After she sees her reflection in the restrooms and starts crying of seeing the true self she was: “Before going to bed that night, I looked in the mirror above the bathroom sink and when I saw only my face staring back and that it would always be this ordinary face I began to cry.” (Tan 358), she now understands who she wants to be and that she will no longer allow her mother to be too controlling over. She starts too performed listlessly in every aspect and tries to not try harder enough to push herself to become this prodigy child her mother wants her to become.
Tan also describes how Jing-Mei and her mother have internal conflicts between them throughout the story. By describing how Jing-Mei is sad and frustrated because she can’t become the great prodigy her mother wants her to be after failing every time they are closed to their goal something comes and takes it away from them. This describes how terrible she feels about letting her mother down and seeing her disappointed faces all the times. Then her mother gets the idea of putting her into piano lessons to become like the Chinese nine-year-old girl playing in The Ed Sullivan Show on TV. Tan describes how Jing-Mei felt like: “When my mother told me this, I felt as though I had been sent to hell,” (359). She whined and then kicked her little foot because she could no longer stand this nonsense anymore her mother was making her go through. She just admitted to her mother and asks her why she didn’t like the way she was and why couldn’t she see she wasn’t a genius child. “Why don’t you like me the way I am? I’m not a genius! I can’t play the piano” (Tan 359). Tan describes how Jing-Mei is angry and could no longer allow her mother to be telling her how she was going to live her life or do with it.
Once they had struggle and conflict problems between them, Tan shows how Jing-Mei and her mother continue to misunderstand each other and dissatisfy each other. Jing-Mei is described as deciding that she didn’t have to do what her mother told her to do always. After she completely failed in her piano recital, she thought her mother would give up on her playing. But her mother still encourages her to continue: “Four clock,” she reminded me as if it were any other day” (Tan 362). This shows how deep the misunderstanding was between, Jing-Mei was “stunned” (Tan 362) when her mother wanted her to play again. She interpreted her mother’s expression after her failure as: “a quiet, blank look that said she had lost everything” (Tan 362); however, the mother’s actions showed that she felt much different than her daughter’s interpretation. She sought for Jing-Mei to continue on and she kept believing in her, she clearly had not “lost everything” (Tan 362). The mother even showed her how serious she was about it by, “lifting her up and onto the hard bench” (Tan 363) to play. Ultimately, Jing-Mei never believed she “could be anything she wanted to be” (Tan 363) and the mother continued to believe that she was “just not trying,” (Tan 363).
At the end of the short story, Tan gave a big description of a theme that seems to be about how the mother expectations lead to misunderstanding, dissatisfaction, and internal conflicts between her and Jing-Mei. Although she began with an angry tone and described the conflicts between Jing-Mei and her mother, Tan made a huge impact on both of them in the end. Because although Jing-Mei and her mother had misunderstandings and problems of conflict, they never solved their problem between them, when Jing-Mei mother had passed away she understood that maybe her perspective from viewing her mother was wrong. By describing how Jing-Mei could feel a sign of forgiveness: “I saw the offer as a sign of forgiveness, a tremendous burden removed” (Tan 364). She understood that all her mother did was for her own good and maybe she didn’t realize it until then because she was just not enough mature an obedient when she was young. Jing-Mei realized that her mother sacrifice a lot for her and she only wanted the best thing for her and that she only did all of this because since she didn’t want her to go through what she went through when she lost everything in China like her first husband and her twin daughters when she migrated from China. And sadly, in the end, we could see how Tan perfectly describes how many parental relationships might end like this one between Jing-Mei and her mother. Of how sometimes it takes something drastic to happen like the death of a parent for one to grow up and understand what it feels to take responsibility and be an adult.
Tan, Amy. “Two Kinds.” Making Literature Matter: An Anthology for Readers and Writers, edited by John Schilb and John Clifford. 7th ed., Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2018, pp.356-364