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In Amy Tan’s novel The Joy Luck Club, the chapter titled “Two Kinds” is narrated by Jing-Mei Woo. Some of the themes, tones, and narrative styles of the chapter might be described as follows:
- Relations between mothers and daughters.
- The American Dream.
- Pressures from parents on children to succeed.
- The ways competition between adults can affect their children.
- Complex feelings, as when the narrator tells her mother that she wishes she wasn’t her mother’s daughter, then immediately feels awful for having done so, but then also immediately feels good about having done so.
- The passage of time and the changes it brings to human relationships.
- Reconciliation, as when the mother offers the narrator the piano the narrator had played as a child.
- Humorous, as in the opening descriptions of Shirley Temple, or in the descriptions of the competitive Chinese mothers.
- Tense, as when the narrator tells her mother that the narrator doesn’t want to try to be a genius:
My mother slapped me. “Who ask you be genius?” she shouted. “Only ask you be your best. For you sake. You think I want you be genius? Hnnh! What for! Who ask you!”
- Self-mocking and self-deprecatory, as the narrator presents her own foibles and shortcomings.
- Tragic, as when the narrator, angry at her mother, reminds her mother of her mother’s two other long-lost daughters, whom the mother assumes are dead:
It was as if I had said the magic words. Alakazam! – and her face went blank, her mouth closed, her arms went slack, and she backed out of the room, stunned, as if she were blowing away like a small brown leaf, thin, brittle, lifeless.
- Personal reminiscence.
- Use of generally short paragraphs, thus keeping the pace of the chapter brisk.
- Use of symbolism, as when the narrator mentions the names of piano pieces at the very end of the chapter.
- Use of simple, straightforward American English, which helps highlight, by contrast, the Chinese idioms used by the Chinese mothers the chapter describes.
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