Two Kinds: A Struggle between a Mother and Daughter
A classic tension-filled relationship between a mother and her child (daughter) can be identified in the story “Two Kinds” by Amy Tan. Jing-Mei, the story’s protagonist, experiences an identity crisis at such an early age of nine. The cause for this early crisis in her life was her mother who moved to America after losing so much in China—her parents, first husband, her two daughters, her life. The constant pressure to become perfect that the mother rained upon Jing-Mei has made her snap, bringing up the tragedies that her mother experienced in China. In the end, silence created a huge rift in their relationship as they grew farther apart from each other. “Two Kinds” revealed two phases on Jing-Mei’s life—that of a “pleading child” and a “perfectly contented” woman.
At the beginning of the story, Jing-Mei was revealed as an obedient child that seemed to follow what her mother told her. The mother always dreamed of Jing-Mei becoming a child “prodigy” hence she always wanted her to do her best at everything. Jing-Mei’s “dreamer” side accompanied this trait as she would always picture herself as a famous talent in the future. This explained her continuous obedience to her mother until that “inner prodigy” of Jing-Mei started to become impatient. Her mother made sure that Jing-Mei was striving for perfection, giving her tests to ensure that fact. However, Jing-Mei was pulled away from her aspirations of fame and into reality. This transition happened when she was staring at herself in the mirror, realizing how imperfect the person staring back was; this resulted into an emotional breakdown. At this point of the story, Jing-Mei changed into the undetermined and rebellious version of herself. She completely strayed away from the initial impression of being the obedient daughter. The conflict between Jing-Mei and her mother started here as neither one of them would give up their aspirations for the sake of the other’s.
The rebellious side’s appearance brought this classic maternal struggle further as Jing-Mei’s mother continuously consider her as a child “prodigy”, even though Jing-Mei chose to consider otherwise. It is understandable why Jing-Mei’s mother would continuously push her to become the best. Some mothers would tend to reflect their mishaps towards their children as though the same fate might happen to them. For a mother, this was not acceptable hence explaining the constant pressure from the mother to the child. This was the relationship that Jing-Mei shared with her mother. However, what the mother failed to comprehend was the fact that it was not Jing-Mei’s intention (anymore) to become famous. This failure to realize that fact created the seemingly endless conflict between them. The identity crisis that she experienced soon came to a halt when she realized that what her mother wants was not really what she wanted. With her stubborn mother refusing to give up, Jing-Mei finally said words that were able to put everything into a stop. “I wish I were dead! Like them!” (Tan, lines 77-78) signified the mother’s defeat as these hurtful words brought back a clinging memory of a tragic past. This is the point where Jing-Mei finally asserted her identity—as someone unique, carved by her own choice. Her mother remained in silence throughout the rest of the story, except during Jing-Mei’s thirtieth birthday. The mother and daughter relationship that they shared grew into something that was tensionless and silent. Even so, it was evident that Jing-Mei turned out to be contented with her life.
Jing-Mei’s childhood was filled with tension as her mother wanted her to strive for perfection. However, she grew out of it and transformed into someone that she wanted. The two phases of her life showed resemblance to the two piano pieces revealed on the last line. The first phase was shorter but slower as it defined her long struggle against her mother, while the second was longer but faster which defined her successful independence from it.
Tan, Amy. “Two Kinds.” 1989.