Study Guide

Two Kinds

by Amy Tan

Two Kinds Analysis

Style and Technique (Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Tan describes herself as a lover of language, not a scholar of English. Therefore, it is her translation into English of what she calls her mother’s internal language that is at the heart of this story. Drawing the reader into the story, the narrator directs the reader through a world in which readers experience the power of a rich, colorful language. For example, when Mother Woo characterizes Auntie Lindo’s daughter, an accomplished chess player at a young age, as “best tricky,” the reader knows not only what it means but also how it sounds. This brand of English, often called fractured or broken, becomes a vernacular that captures the tone and color of the experience of growing up in a bilingual environment.

Further illustrating the conflict between Chinese mother and American-born daughter, the spoken language of the two creates a verbal duel. For example, when June demands that her mother look at who she really is, saying “I’m not a genius!” her mother responds with, “Who ask you be genius?” The mother’s question, although incomplete grammatically, projects her confusion over being unable to understand her daughter’s anger or ungratefulness.

The language also characterizes the rich, layered texture of a household built on two languages and two cultures, which often are combined to form, for example, a Chinese Shirley Temple. As her mother offers her the piano, the tense shift in her words is purposeful: “You could been genius if you want to.” Even though it starts in the past, the sentence ends in the present, indicating to June and to the reader that it is not too late for June to find her genius. Ultimately, it is Tan’s command of the “Englishes” that transforms the short story into one that captures not only her mother’s voice but also other mothers’ voices that have been silenced or, at best, standardized into an “imperfect” English that does not convey their essence, their internal language.

Two Kinds Historical Context

Chinese Immigration to America
San Francisco was (and still is) one of the largest Chinese-American communities in the United...

(The entire section is 579 words.)

Two Kinds Literary Style

Memoir
All the stories in The Joy Luck Club are interlocking personal narratives in different voices. Because the...

(The entire section is 491 words.)

Two Kinds Ideas for Group Discussions

In "Two Kinds" Tan explores the complex and often difficult relationships between mothers and daughters. In particular, she looks at the...

(The entire section is 212 words.)

Two Kinds Social Concerns

Amy Tan's "Two Kinds" is the last story in the second of four sections of her immensely successful first book, The Joy Luck Club. Tan...

(The entire section is 828 words.)

Two Kinds Topics for Further Study

What does Jing-mei expect will happen at the recital? Does she plan to give the kind of performance that she gives? Why or why not?

...

(The entire section is 161 words.)

Two Kinds Literary Precedents

Tan herself cites Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior (1976), Kingston's memoir of her bicultural childhood, as a major influence...

(The entire section is 45 words.)

Two Kinds Adaptations

"Two Kinds" is a part of the film version of The Joy Luck Club. Tan wrote the screenplay (with Ronald Bass) for the adaptation of her...

(The entire section is 73 words.)

Two Kinds Media Adaptations

"Two Kinds’’ is a part of the film version of The Joy Luck Club. Tan wrote the screenplay (with Ronald Bass) for this adaptation...

(The entire section is 73 words.)

Two Kinds What Do I Read Next?

The Woman Warrior (1976) is Maxine Hong Kingston's memoir of her bi-cultural childhood. Tan cites it as an influence on her fiction....

(The entire section is 48 words.)

Two Kinds Bibliography and Further Reading

Sources
Angier, Carole, Review, in New Statesman and Society, June 30, 1989, p. 35.

Huntley, E. D., Amy...

(The entire section is 174 words.)

Two Kinds Bibliography (Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Duke, Lynne. “The Secrets Silence Holds.” The Washington Post, March 15, 2001, p. C1.

Gee, Alison Singh. “A Life on the Brink.” People Weekly 55, no. 18 (May 7, 2001): 85-88.

Gray, Paul. “The Joys and Sorrows of Amy Tan.” Time 157, no. 7 (February 19, 2001): 72-75.

Hamilton, Patricia L. “Feng Shui, Astrology, and the Five Elements: Traditional Chinese Belief in Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club.MELUS 24, no. 2 (Summer, 1999): 125-146.

Lyall, Sarah. “At Home with Amy Tan: In the Country of the Spirits.” The New York Times, December 28, 1995, p. C1.

Ma, Sheng-mei. “Chinese and Dogs in Amy Tan’s The Hundred Secret Senses.” MELUS 26, no. 1 (Spring, 2001): 29-45.

Mason, Deborah. “A Not-So-Dutiful Daughter.” The New York Times Book Review, November 23, 2003, 30.

Shear, Walter. “Generational Differences and the Diaspora in The Joy Luck Club.” Critique: Studies in Modern Fiction 34, no. 3 (Spring, 1993): 193-199.