In “Two Kinds” by Amy Tan, a Chinese born mother decides that her daughter, June, must be a prodigy in something. Several things are undertaken with resounding failure. Finally, the mother decides that her daughter must be a piano genius.
After several failures in other areas, the daughter becomes tired of trying. At first, she was cooperative thinking that her parents would love her more and that she would be a great success. Now, she wants no part of the prodigy game.
Her mother agrees to clean a tenant’s apartment in their building if he would give the daughter piano lessons. Begrudgingly the daughter goes to the lessons only to discover that the teacher is completely deaf. Mr. Chong, the teacher, begins to show his pupil about chords and the vocabulary of music. Thinking herself clever during her lesson, June would begin the scales and then fool around playing nothing. For a year, the girl pretends to practice. One day, the daughter over hears her mother talking about a talent contest. All of the family and friends would attend to hear the piano prodigy play.
For some reason, June allows herself to believe that she will be able to play the song and be successful. After completely botching the song and embarrassing her mother, the girl figures that will be the end of the piano lessons.
Her mother did not up. The girl will continue her lessons. Finally, both mother and daughter have the battle that the girl knew would come. The daughter refused to obey her mother, and the mother quickly tells her how she feels. The mother explains that there are only two kinds of daughters: the ones that obey and the ones that have their own minds. The mother will only have one kind of daughter living in her house: the one that obeys.
To hurt her mother, June brings up a part of the mother’s life that she had left in
China. The daughter tells her that she wishes that she were dead like the children that the mother had lost before coming to the United States.
And I could sense her anger rising to its breaking point. I wanted see it spill over. And that's when I
remembered the babies she had lost in China, the ones we never talked about. "Then I wish I'd never been
born!" I shouted. “I wish I were dead! Like them."
It was as if I had said magic words. Alakazam!-her face went blank, her mouth closed, her arms went slack,
and she backed out of the room, stunned...
After this, there were no more lessons. The girl grows up and disappoints her parents many times. The subject was never broached again; the girl felt that her mother had given up on her.
When the parents are elderly, the girl returns for a visit. The mother offers her the piano. The girl told her that she could not take it from her. Sadly, the mother lets her know that the daughter felt that if she had tried harder she could have been a great pianist.
After her mother passes away, the daughter sits down to play a song. June chooses the song that she did not play well at the contest. She sees on the opposite page another song that was the counter part of the one that she had played: “Pleading Child” and “Perfectly Contented.” The daughter realizes that she was like the two songs with the relationship with her mother.