Two Kinds Questions and Answers
by Amy Tan

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How do the two songs at the end represent the characters and character progression?

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The two songs at the end of "Two Kinds" are called "Pleading Child" and "Perfectly Contented." During the story, Jing-mei is pleading with her mother for her mother to love her for who she is, not for some prodigy that she might become. Jing-mei's mother fails to hear the pleading for unconditional love that emanates from her daughter; instead, she expects obedience. This leads to a confrontation where Jing-mei lashes out at her mother with cruel and hurtful words. Jing-mei's mother is stunned, but she never understands how she has hurt Jing-mei. Even years later, when Jing-mei is an adult, her mother tries to give her the piano as a way of a peace offering between them. Still, she ends up insulting Jing-mei again with the words, "You could been genius if you want to. ... You just not trying."

Years before, however, while she was still a child, Jing-mei realized that if she was ever going to be happy, she was going to have to rebel against her mother's drive to turn her into someone she was not. She decided that if she could not have her mother's unconditional love, she would nevertheless be true to herself. She begins that process when she takes advantage of Mr. Chong's hearing loss to not pursue her piano practices conscientiously. After embarrassing herself and her mother at the talent show, she refuses to practice anymore, and in asserting herself, she feels "as if my true self had finally emerged." Summarizing her years of schooling, she explains her conclusion that "I could only be me." She has come to believe that she must satisfy herself and not others if she wants to be "Perfectly Contented." 

In reflecting on the fact that both pieces of music were "two halves of the same song," the narrator suggests that she had to pass through the pleading child phase, including her rebellion against her mother, to arrive at a place where she was happy with herself, where as an adult she was able to be "perfectly contented." 

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