How is the conflict between the mother and daughter settled in "Two Kinds?"

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amarang9's profile pic

amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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The conflict between mother and daughter, in "Two Kinds," is somewhat resolved when the mother gives the daughter the piano on her thirtieth birthday. The daughter notes, "I had not played in all those years. I saw the offer as a sign of forgiveness, a tremendous burden removed." 

However, the mother still sticks to her belief that her daughter (Jing-mei) had/has talent and simply didn't apply herself. The mother still insists that had Jing-mei been an obedient daughter, she would have become a prodigy. Although Jing-mei did not accept the piano at first, she felt that the gesture was enough to settle the matter. "And after that, every time I saw it in my parents' living room, standing in front of the bay window, it made me feel proud, as if it were a shiny trophy I had won back." 

For the mother, the matter was resolved but she stuck with her belief that Jing-mei could have been more obedient and thereby made her (the mother's) dreams come true by living vicariously through her daughter. For Jing-mei, the conflict was resolved when she accepted that she could be obedient at times but must rebel against her mother at other times. Thus, Jing-mei asserts her individuality by being "two kinds" - obedient, but primarily individual. This is summed up nicely when she begins to play both sides ('two kinds') of the piece she had played as a child - "Pleading Child" and "Perfectly Contented." She ends with ". . . I realized they were two halves of the same song." 

Jing-mei is faced with her mother's culture of obedience and her new American culture of individuality. This conflict underscores the mother-daughter conflict and is the subject of two kinds of identity. Jing-mei was in the process starting as "Pleading Child" and resolving the conflict to hopefully become "Perfectly Contented." 

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literaturepro4's profile pic

literaturepro4 | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

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The conflict between Jing-Mei and her mother eventually resolves itself. Throughout the majority of the novel, Jing-Mei is in constant conflict with her mother, as a direct result of her mother's high expectations. Jing-Mei's mother has her (Jing-Mei's) life all planned out for her and pushes her relentlessly. Unfortunately, this leaves Jing-Mei feeling not only inadequate but rebellious as well. Over time, Jing-Mei's mother comes to accept her daughter for who she is, rather than who she wants her to be. The gift of the piano proves this acceptance, and also gives Jing-Mei a sense of pride in herself. 

"And after that, everytime I saw it in my parents' living room, standing in front of the bay window, it made me feel proud, as if it were a shiny trophy that I had won back."

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