What is the significance of the two halves of the songs "Pleading Child" and "Perfectly Contented" in "Two Kinds"?

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The two songs are different sides of June’s personality.  She realizes that they are two halves of the same song later, as an adult.

June’s mother arranges for her to have piano lessons so she can learn to be a prodigy.  June does not really have much talent for anything else.

June tries to learn to play “Pleading Child” for the concert, which is “simple, moody piece that sounded more difficult than it was,” but she does not really learn to play it because she resists playing the piano.

I never really listened to what I was playing. I daydreamed about being somewhere else, about being someone else.

June is fascinated by the pleading song, because she is at a low point in her life. Her relationship with her mother goes back and forth from contented to pleading.  June will not be content until she learns to accept who she is and communicate with her mother.

June’s mother is frustrated when her daughter refuses to play the piano.

"Only two kinds of daughters," she shouted in Chinese. "Those who are obedient and those who follow their own mind!" 

This comment turns into a huge fight, where June says things she later regrets.  As an adult, she is thinking back at the number of times she disappointed her mother after that.  She looks the song up later.

"Pleading Child" was shorter but slower; "Perfectly Contented" was longer but faster. And after I had played them both a few times, I realized they were two halves of the same song.

These are two halves of June, and two halves of her relationship with her mother.  The truth is that June is both kinds of daughters at once, as we all are.  Everyone has ups and downs.

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