An Interpretive Essay: “Two Kinds” by Amy Tan
Turning through pages of stories the words within them appear to be dimensionless and static. As one begins reading, a discovery of a spirited journey is made. In the story, “Two Kinds” written by Amy Tan a crucial component she created was the narrator. The narrative voice develops the tone, symbolism, language, and characters in the story which make the story come alive in your thoughts. Jing-Mei is the narrator who is a daughter of a Chinese immigrant. As the story advances, her journey of struggle through the relationship with her overbearing mother is unraveled.
Instantly there is a closeness felt with Jing-Mei. This is because of the part she plays as a protagonist. You can understand what she is going through because she is portraying a storyteller. She is a first person narrator who helps you see out of the eyes of a young Chinese American girl. The way in which she addresses herself with the pronoun I and her mother as she show that the words and thoughts are a part of her.
As Jing-Mei speaks about a time in her childhood when her mother pushed her to become a prodigy, there are recognizable immature qualities she possessed. She was highly imaginative and satisfied with the ongoing process to become perfect. The words she used were highly vibrant images. She fantasizes of being “like the Christ child lifted out of the straw manger, crying with holy indignity.” Her hope is to be perfect, not for the reward of fame, but for the love of her parents. She wanted to make them happy and please them. This is something that almost all children want to do.
As Jing-Mei wished more and more to be this type of super kid rebellion was inevitable. This was also a trait borne out of her childishness. While her mother wanted to create a genius, she wanted to demolish her dream. This change of heart occurred after numerous tests her mother had given her to memorize bible passages and world capitals. Each time she was wrong and faltered in remembering there were continued looks of disappointment from her mother. By this time she stopped fantasizing about being something special. She desired independence from her mother and resists the high standards her mother has set for her. Jing-Mei thought, “I won?t let her change me, I promised myself.” Moreover she rejects the hope of being the child prodigy.
With a child?s perspective we can be given the truth. Jing-Mei has an honest view of the world, so we can trust what she is feeling. Her reactions and emotions are blunt. During the showdown after the talent show fiasco she protested that she was not going to anymore piano lessons. She exchanged heated words with her mother. After knowing her mother had lost her twin daughters she said the meanest thing she could. Jing-Mei shouted, “I wish I were dead! Like them.” Her words displayed every ounce of strength and anger she had.
The dialogue exchanged between her and her mother are sound very realistic, so trust has been established with the reader and the narrator. Jing-Mei?s mother has jumbled up English words with some Chinese words. This alternation of mostly choppy English and her cultural dialect makes her mother sound like an authentic Chinese mother. She called her daughter “ni kan” and commented that Auntie Lindo?s “daughter, she is only best tricky.” Jing-Mei?s words are also not too simple, but not complicated either. You can sympathize with her situation and the choosing of her passionate words. She sobbed and said during an argument, “I?ll never be the kind of daughter you want me to be!” This exhibited how strongly she felt about expressing herself.
During most of the story the tone is set by the anger and disappointment. This is characterized by the daughter feeling that she was never acceptable to her mother. She asked, “Why don?t you like me the way I am?” The only way she could handle her mother?s expectations was to always succumb to defeat.
By the end of the story the tone takes a different turn. In addition, the voice has matured from a girl into a woman. Jing-Mei?s mother offers the piano that they had fought over as a peace offering. Jing-Mei always thought that throughout her life even after the piano fight she had failed her mother by dropping out of college and not getting straight A?s. Finally, she found that her mother never lost any hope for her no matter how many times she failed. Her mother still dreamed that she could be a prodigy if she wanted to. It was all up to her. After all, her “mother believed you could be anything you wanted to be in America.”
The two tones depicted all through the story can be tied to Jing-Mei?s ending thought. The piano piece she had struggled to play at the talent show was entitled “Pleading Child” and was a very slow and difficult song. She saw that on the next page was a song called “Perfectly Contented” which was quick and happy. These were two halves of the same song. This can be compared to her life. During her childhood and part of her adulthood she had felt dissatisfied with her life and with the choices she had made. After she was offered the piano and even after her mother died she had found inner peace. She had reconciled the issues of her failures and knew that her mother never considered them failures. The two songs demonstrated how she had experienced two parts of her life.
Amy Tan?s utilization of Jing-Mei affected all the intricate pieces of the story. She showed that the voice of a character and narrator can develop a bond between the reader and the story. Jing-Mei?s narration brought a comprehension to ideas and various emotions. Without her the story could not have imprinted any heartfelt lessons.