Amy Tan’s Two Kinds
Two Kinds is a short story written by Amy Tan. It is about the relationship of a girl (the narrator) and her mother. The mother wanted the narrator to be a successful child prodigy like the ones they see on TV. The narrator, however, has other plans and does not want to be what her mother wants her to be. During a piano recital, the narrator intentionally performs horribly, much to her mother’s dismay. The mother and daughter relationship has turned sour since then. Years later, the narrator discovers the old piece she performed and finds another but happier piece, only to discover that both are just parts of the same song.
Tan provides several elements so that readers would be able to empathize with the protagonist. One theme that is shown early on in the book is the allure that the American Dream brings to everyone, especially to immigrants. Another, which is more emphasized in the short story, is the theme of the difference in age and culture that can affect a mother and daughter relationship.
The American Dream
The story opens up with the line, “My mother believed you can be everything you wanted to be in America” (Tan 132). The word “America” is definitely referring to the United States of America because the narrator mentions that her mother came to San Francisco as a broke woman. “She had come to San Francisco in 1949 after losing everything in China” (Tan 132). The American Dream promised American citizens that they would be taken care of—a good life in the land of freedom, opportunity, and justice. However, the America being referred to in the story was during the time the short story was written, which was 1989, a time when the American Dream still had a lot of promise. However, present day America does not have the same kind of optimism in the past due to the economic recession.
The American Dream is also one of the themes that Tan utilized to emphasize the theme of generation gap between the narrator and her mother. The narrator’s mother is a firm believer of the American Dream which caused the conflict between her and her daughter to erupt. The narrator does not want to be extraordinary or rather, to be something she is not. It is like she already knew that she would not be successful in life, or at least attain what the American Dream promised. The generation of the narrator’s mother has a different interpretation of the Dream from the narrator because of the generation gap between them. Aside from the generation gap, a cultural gap exists between the mother and daughter. The narrator was born in the US while her mother came to the US as a grown woman. The narrator was entirely American despite her Chinese heritage. Her mother, on the other hand, was too old to be influenced by American culture that could possibly change her perception towards the American dream. The American dream is romanticized especially by aspiring immigrants because they almost always come from poor social standings and seek the American Dream As Way to Climb up the Social Ladder.
Most of us would empathize with the narrator because at some point in our lives, there are people that expected a lot from us but got disappointed. We also emphasize with the narrator because we, the younger/newer generations, have the same rebellious feelings that the narrator had.
Tan, Amy. “Two Kinds.” The Joy Luck Club. New York: Penguin Group. 2006. 132–144.