The character of the mother in Amy Tan’s “Two Kinds” is developed through the eyes and experiences of her daughter. However, though the reader only really gains an understanding of her past and personality from the perspective of the narrator, she still is a very full character. The daughter’s experience with her mother’s dreams of her becoming a child prodigy, first running the gamut from child-actress to math whiz and then settling on the idea of developing as a pianist, illustrates as much about her mother’s understanding of the world as her own. The narrator states that her mother is an immigrant from China but makes this fact more real in the dialogue between mother and daughter and the hope of mother for child. In addition, the pain and emotional torment of having left behind her life and her past is evident in her reaction to her daughter’s declaration that she wishes she were dead, like the two daughters her mother had been forced to leave behind in China. She doesn’t react with words and the daughter’s narrative doesn’t need to go into further detail in describing her mother’s experiences for the reader to know the emotional and psychological damage and guilt that weighs on her. The slump of her body, as described by her daughter, is all the imagery that is needed to show the devastation of that other life and the constant presence in her mind of her own failures.
Also, important in showing the mother’s personality and her love for her daughter is the gesture of the gift of the piano. She shows a lot of pride even in trying to make amends, despite her daughter’s stubbornness believes in the possibility of her daughter’s talent even as her daughter believes that she has disappointed her. That disappointment speaks louder of the insecurities of daughter than of her mother’s expectations; despite the mother’s pushing, she nevertheless shows a loyalty to her daughter’s future, even as she is constantly aware of her past.