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Two Kinds: Literary Analysis of Amy Tan's Novel

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Two Kinds by Amy Tan: essay

The short story “Two Kinds” by Amy Tan provides a thought-provoking literary analysis of the conflicts that arise between parents and children when their goals and aspirations differ. In this first-person narrative, Tan depicts the struggle that Jing-Mei Woo and her mother face in reconciling their differing views on success. Through the use of symbols such as Shirley Temple and allegories such as “Pleading Child” and “Perfectly Contented,” Tan highlights the lasting effects of misunderstandings caused by a lack of communication in personal relationships. Through “Two Kinds” literary analysis, this essay emphasizes the importance of communication and understanding in maintaining healthy kinship relations.

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In the beginning of the story, it is made clear that there is a lot of pressure on Jing-Mei Woo to be a “prodigy” and fit the idealized image of American success. For her mother, she only saw this exhibited by Hollywood. She longed for her daughter to be a, “Chinese Shirley Temple”. By using this perception of prosperity and accomplishment, her mother thought that she was going to be able to shape Jing-Mei into it. As first-generation Chinese immigrants, their family saw success in western culture in the form of celebrities and people on TV. This heavily influenced what Mrs. Woo wanted her daughter to strive to become. At one point Jing-Mei shared this same dream when she said, “I was filled with a sense that I would soon become perfect: My mother and father would adore me. I would be beyond reproach. I would never feel the need to sulk, or to clamor for anything”. But often with family ideals, pressure is attached to become something you may not want to be. The conflicts became apparent when Jing-Mei started to tear away from the “prodigy” label and wanted to be her true self, regardless of the expectations her mother had. The “Shirley Temple” ideal was impractical. This root idea was where her mother and her sprouted their altercations and unhealthy energy towards each other. Her mother’s anger and forceful tactics made it difficult for them to correspond with each other and figure out each other’s intentions and true wishes.

Mother had inner thoughts with feelings, she wanted to start a new life as her history in china. “Mother was so determined that you could be anything you wanted to be in America, you could open a restaurant you work for the government and have good retirement you can buy a house with almost no money down”. Her mother was so determined that America was where one could accomplish anything they put their psyche to, regardless of what their identity is. A great many individuals move to the United States each year from various pieces of the world to approach these sorts of chances. This is what is known as ‘the American dream”.The author showed us her point of view of her new life and new id of life and a good backstory of her to understand the problem that will come of her and daughter.

Through the metaphorical song titles, Tan expresses how the experiences we have as children, positive and negative, stay with us, but it might not be until later in life that we see how these experiences shape us. The missing communication component lasted throughout the mother and daughter’s relationship until it strained and broke when the latter lashed out verbally to cause hurt at the deep-seated anguish of her mother’s loss of twin daughters. The song, “Pleading Child”, was one that her mother made her learn as a child on the keys, and when revisiting the piano, Jing-Mei realized that the next song after that was called “Perfectly Contented”. She came to realize that, “After she had played them both a few times, she realized they were two halves of the same song”. The allegory that is revealed in this ending statement is that their relationship had reformed. Through all the conflict and pressure and trauma, her mother’s true intention was to help her. The things she experienced in her childhood shaped her into becoming who she was as a human being.

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In her short story, Tan shows how the lack of communication and misunderstanding of intention causes disconnect in family. In the beginning, Tan made the characters’ standards different; her mom wanted her to become a “Shirley Temple” and she wanted to go on with her life as who she truly was. As the story came to a close it was shown that their relationship had transformed from being disembodied and chaotic, to content. This transformation highlights the importance and need for proper communication as well as the closure it can bring with it.

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Literary Analysis of Two Kinds by Amy Tan. (2023, January 28). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 5, 2023, from
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