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What are the similarities between "Two Kinds" by Amy Tan, and "Everyday Use" by Alice...

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fatkitty | eNoter

Posted November 13, 2011 at 2:12 PM via web

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What are the similarities between "Two Kinds" by Amy Tan, and "Everyday Use" by Alice Walker?

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted November 13, 2011 at 5:41 PM (Answer #1)

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In Amy Tan's "Two Kinds," and Alice Walker's "Everyday Use," there are some important similarities.

Both stories involve the relationship between a mother and her daughter. In Amy Tan's short story "Two Kinds" (from a collection of stories in her novel, The Joy Luck Club, which are all about mother-daughter relationships), June (Jing-mei) and her mother (Suyuan Woo) struggle because June wants to see herself as fully American and her mother sees her as "Jing-mei," a Chinese-American girl. Suyuan sees her daughter in terms of their Chinese heritage—not in rejecting American norms—which Suyuan admires—but the extent to which a mother is involved in her daughter's life. There is an important distinction here: Suyuan believes that she should be actively immersed in her daughter's life—as any Chinese mother would. June separates herself from her mother—as American rather than Chinese—and is embarrassed by her mother's attempts to make her successful in America—for Suyuan does not understand the distinction in the U.S. of subtly promoting one's child: she goes about it more like haggling over the price of fish at the market.

My mother believed you could be anything you wanted to be in America. You could open a restaurant. You could work for the government and get good retirement. You could become rich. You could become instantly famous.

"Of course you can be prodigy, too," my mother told me when I was nine. "You can be best anything..."

(It is not until later in the book, in "A Pair of Tickets," that June realizes the cultural disconnect between them, which really was no one's fault.)

Likewise, in Alice Walker's "Everyday Use," heritage also plays a large part in the disconnect between Dee and her mother (the narrator). Heritage is central to the breakdown in their relationship in that Dee chooses to ignore the heritage of her American forefathers (and mothers) because they were enslaved to whites, and instead to embrace her African culture—about which she really knows nothing. She is not aware of who her African ancestors were. Ironically, in believing she is closer to her "roots" by denying her American heritage, she is actually dismissing the very rich heritage that exists in terms of her American ancestors, and the line of strong women from which she is descended. Dee would rather distance herself from these "real" people to connect with people of whom she knows nothing—something she believes empowers her, where she feels her American kin do not. The title reflects this with regard to some quilts that have been made by the hands of several generations of women in Dee's "American" family. Dee sees the quilts only as priceless heirlooms because of their age and society's respect and demand for all things "antique." However, Dee's sister Maggie wants to use them to "build her home" when she marries, using them everyday because of the emotional significance they have—the connection to her past—which Dee has rejected.

"Maggie can't appreciate these quilts!" [Dee] said. "She'd probably be backward enough to put them to everyday use."

"I reckon she would," I said. "God knows I been saving 'em for long enough with nobody using 'em. I hope she will!"

The other similarity between the stories, then, is June and Dee's desire to distance themselves from their cultural heritage. As far as the reader knows, Dee never changes. However, later in Amy Tan's book, June does come to this realization when she returns to China to visit.

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