What is the problem and the goal in the story "Two Kinds" by Amy Tan?

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jameadows | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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The goal in Amy Tan's short story "Two Kinds" is for Jing-Mei to become some sort of prodigy. Her mother, who lost everything in China, including her previous family, "believed you could be anything you wanted to be in America." Her mother has the immigrant's dream of enabling her daughter to reach fame and fortune in America. Jing-Mei, the daughter, also dreams of becoming a prodigy and of reaching perfection so that she is beyond her parents' reproach.

The problem is that the mother's and the daughter's ideas of what becoming a prodigy means start to become very discrepant. While the mother dreams of her daughter working hard and becoming a piano prodigy, Jing-Mei finds what she calls "the prodigy side of me" when she is defiant towards her mother. When she looks at a reflection of herself scowling, she thinks, "The girl staring back at me was angry, powerful. She and I were the same." Jing-Mei's idea of differentiating herself is to become angry and defiant, more in the tradition of an American daughter, while her mother expects her daughter to become a prodigy by bringing honor and showing obedience to her parents.   


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teachertaylor | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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In "Two Kinds," Jing-Mei Woo narrates the difficulty that she had with her mother over the piano lessons which she no longer wanted to take.  Early in the story, Jing-Mei says that she practiced piano because it was a popular thing to do according to the media.  Jing-Mei thinks that her mother Suyuan wants her to be a piano prodigy because she pushes her to practice and perform.  Jing-Mei, however, never excels at the piano and she makes an embarrassment of herself at a recital.  She tells her mother that she wants to stop playing, and her mother rebukes her.  Jing-Mei brings up the two daughters that Suyuan abandoned in mainland China.  The statement hurts her mother and drives a wedge between the two.  The goal of the story is to explore the cultural divide and difficulty in understanding and communication that exists between the mother and her daughter.

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