ENG 204|Introduction to Literature

Themes (Essay)

Two Kinds
By: Amy Tan
Figuring out the theme of a story must start by asking oneself what the author is trying to convey
through the character and events. In Two kinds of Amy Tan, the mother had stated that there are only two
types of daughters. “Those who are obedient and those who follow their own mind.” Jing-Mei did not
understand the meaning behind that declaration until after her mother’s death. Jing realized that her
mother only meant that she could be an obedient child by listening to her mother while at the same time
follow her own heart and want her own prodigy in life.
The title itself “Two Kinds” represents the central theme of the voracious love between mother
and daughter and the demanding journey that one already has taken and the other will take both for
herself and for her mother. It is a journey of self-discovery made through painful yet blissful connections.
Jin-Mei retraces back the memory of the past and creates a community to it. Two Kinds adds its own
version of femininity and ethnicity to the wider narrative. For it gives the commonalities of China and
America to what the characters behavior. Moreover, in Two Kinds, two different aspects of immigrant life
are presented. First, the emphasis is on the loss of separation from mother, “distance between mother who
was born in China and thus have been cut off from her native culture for decades”, and later the emphasis
shifts to the ensuing competitiveness of the relationship, “her American-born daughter who must
negotiate the twin burdens of her Chinese ancestry and American expectations for success”. The girl
cannot relate to her mother because she was raised in a different world. No matter how much the mother
cares for her or how much the sacrifice to make her girls’ lives better, the daughter is still blind to her
mother’s pain and feelings.
Moreover, the theme of two seemingly opposite sides of a person is symbolized in the two musical pieces.
Jing-Mei shows antipathy towards her mother’s treatment to her wherein she was forced to do the things
she doesn’t want to do. So, she pleads to do things on her way, particularly when it comes to her hobbies.
Like other children similar with her age, Jing-Mei wants to be accepted as who she is and obtain an
instant gratification on everything she does which is represented by the aspect of “Pleading Child”.
However, people always seek an immediate progress; in the story “But sometimes the prodigy in me
became impatient.” So, I think hastening things often hindered from achieving goals.

Amy Tan

exemplified this reality during Jing-Mei's terrible piano recital and her tension-filled relationship with her

mother. Anon, long after Jing-Mei's mother's death, she comes across the music from her recital. The
"Perfectly Contented" piece reflects what she presently views her life to be, and she realizes that while it
might take longer to reach perfect contentment, the wait is worth it because then life is lively and full
same as the piece which is longer and fast.
As Thomas Alva Edison had ever said that “Genius is one percent inspiration, and ninety-nine
percent perspiration.” The well-known saying entails that the harder you work, the more likely you
achieve your aspiration. If Jing-Mei did not deceive her deaf piano teacher, Mr. Chong before, she could
have been an excellent pianist. At the end of the short story, she has a clear mind and finds out the
meaning of the struggling estate of being a pleading child. Sometimes, when throwback with our past, we
look at an event happened in our life more visibly. As the saying goes, "There are two sides to one coin."
Amy Tan may want to disclose that one thing can lead to a different result. It depends on how we see it. It
may be by being a pleading child or perfectly contented child.

Work Cited:
Tan, Amy. "Two Kinds." The Joy Luck Club. Vol. 1. New York, 1989.
Tan, Amy. The Joy Luck Club. New York: Penguin, 2006