Describe the relationship between Jing-Mei and her mother in "Two Kinds."

The relationship between Jing-Mei and her mother in "Two Kinds" could be described as fraught. Suyuan wants her daughter to be a child prodigy, but Jing-Mei's not so enthusiastic. Though she goes along with her mother's plan, it soon becomes clear that she isn't cut out to be a pianist. This generates tension between mother and daughter which eventually leads to Jing-Mei telling Suyuan that she wishes she were dead like the twin daughters Suyuan left behind in China.

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To a large extent, the relationship between Jing-Mei and her mother Suyuan is determined by what happened back in China in 1949. There, Suyuan was forced to leave behind her twin daughters, and this has caused her considerable regret and sadness ever since. It has also led to her wanting...

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To a large extent, the relationship between Jing-Mei and her mother Suyuan is determined by what happened back in China in 1949. There, Suyuan was forced to leave behind her twin daughters, and this has caused her considerable regret and sadness ever since. It has also led to her wanting her remaining daughter to avail herself of all the opportunities that American life has to offer.

This means that Suyuan wants Jing-Mei to become a child prodigy, just like the highly talented children she sees on television. The problem is that Jing-Mei's not quite so enthusiastic. Thoroughly Americanized, she doesn't share the values of her tiger mother, whose mentality is more traditionally Chinese than American. This clash of cultures persists throughout Jing-Mei's painful and ultimately fruitless efforts to become what her mother wants her to be.

Before long, the relationship between mother and daughter has become not just a culture clash but also a power play. Once Jing-Mei realizes that she will never be a child prodigy, she uses the one weapon she has left in her locker: her knowledge that Suyuan is still guilty and upset over leaving behind her twin daughters in China.

Jing-Mei angrily screams at Suyuan, saying that she—Jing-Mei—wishes she were dead like the twins. It's a low blow and a sign that Jing-Mei is ready to play dirty in this epic battle of wills with her mother.

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Jing-Mei and her mother share a belief in Jing-Mei's ability to become a child prodigy while she is young. They watch Shirley Temple movies together and Jing-Mei agrees to her mother's haircuts and looks forward to her eventual fame.  When it becomes apparent that Jing-Mei does not have the combination of talent and drive to become a child prodigy, their relationship becomes strained. Each is strong-willed, but they move in opposing directions as Jing-Mei's mother increases the pressure to practice piano and Jing-Mei subverts her authority.  

The eventual showdown over the continuation of piano lessons after the disastrous recital is the breaking point in their relationship. Jing-Mei puts her foot down, and does so with cruelty as she takes a shot at her mother's abandonment of her children in China. Her anger after years of being pressured to become a success reaches a peak, and from this day onward, her mother remains in a quietly disappointed retreat. Like many mothers and daughters, they eventually make peace with one another. They do this, however, in a way in which neither completely abandons what they wished for; for Jing-Mei's mother it is for her to be a genius, while for Jing-Mei it is simply to be accepted for what she has accomplished.

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In considering both of the main characters, we can feel empathy as readers with both of their positions, and likewise we can identify that the way they interact can be cruel and heartless.

We are made to feel both pity for and resentment at Jing Mei's mother. We are given brief details about her difficult past in China and how she viewed her coming to America as representing being somewhere where anyone could achieve anything, so from this perspective we can understand the pressure under which Jing Mei is placed by her mother: partly her mother wants her daughter to have the success and prosperity that she was never able to have in her childhood and life.

However, through use of first person narration we are able to identify with the character of Jing Mei, and appreciate her increasing resentment throughout the story of her mother and her desire to be her own person and to be "normal".

Jing Mei and her mother both commit acts of cruely to each other, the high point of conflict coming after Jing Mei's disastrous debut as a pianist, when she refers to her mother's other children that died. Both characters are incredibly stubborn, and even though Jing Mei admits she could have become a competent pianist, she deliberately chose not to as a means of defying her mother's wishes and becoming the person she chose to be.

What is interesting about the ending of the story is Jing Mei's description of the piano as a "shiny trophy" - suggesting perhaps that she had metaphorically "won" it, but on her own terms, rather than by following her mother's plan for her life. Jing Mei's realisation that the piece of music "Pleading Child" is coupled with "Perfectly Contented" likewise provides a pleasing ending to this excerpt as we come to see that Jing Mei has reached a stage where she is no longer trying to gain her mother's approval and is at peace with her own decisions and life choices.

The two main characters in "Two Kinds" therefore are similar in their stubborness and resolute nature. Jing Mei's mother insists on trying to mould her daughter into a "prodigy" for a number of motives - both for her own good and for pride. However, in response to this pressure, Jing Mei embarks on a quest to gain the right to not be spectacular and to be normal, gaining her own independence and sense of selfhood through the process of this quest

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