In "Two Kinds", what are Jing-Mei's characteristics?
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Jing-Mei’s dominant characteristic is to make her own way as an independent person despite her origins as a Chinese-American. This leads her to the stubbornness, hardness, and even cruelty that she evidences in the story. The fact that she is telling the story at all, however, indicates the regret she feels at the way she responded to her mother. Paragraph 79 is worth classroom discussion in this regard, particularly this sentence: "In the years that followed, I failed her so many times, each time asserting my own will, my right to fall short of expectations."
Concerning Jing-Mei in Amy Tan's "Two Kinds," the enotes Study Guide on the story says the following about her:
Jing-Mei is a rebellious child caught between two cultures: the Chinese culture that prevails in her mother's home; and the American one that prevails everywhere else. She resists her mother's attempts at discipline and resents the pressures of high achievement that immigrant parents typically place on their children.
She also understands that her mother is using her to win a competition with her friend Lindo Jong; both women brag about whose daughter is more talented. She is resolved to be true to herself and not take part in such a competition. Refusing to practice the piano, she tells her mother that she wishes she were dead, like the babies she knows her mother was forced to abandon when she fled China. She regrets saying such hurtful things later.
It is important to remember that Jing-Mei is the child in the relationship between her and her mother. She does not dictate the terms of the relationship. The absolutism and unrealistic expectations the mother places upon her determine the nature of the hostility between them.
Jing-Mei, in fact, is a normal, American adolescent. And she's smart enough to recognize the faults in her mother's plans for her. Her mother tries to live vicariously through her, and Jing-Mei will have none of it.
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