In "Two Kinds," what is Jing-Mei's mother's personality like?

In "Two Kinds," Jing-Mei's mother, Suyuan, is a determined and resilient woman who believes that hard work will bring success. She demonstrates strength and is driven to push her daughter to seek opportunities. She believes in her daughter's abilities and wants the best for her.

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Jing-mei's mother, Suyuan, is a strong, formidable woman who's overcome many obstacles in her life. Possessed with a steely will and determination, Suyuan refuses to let life get her down, despite all the many hardships she's had to endure.

The downside of Suyuan's strong will is a certain stubbornness, which...

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Jing-mei's mother, Suyuan, is a strong, formidable woman who's overcome many obstacles in her life. Possessed with a steely will and determination, Suyuan refuses to let life get her down, despite all the many hardships she's had to endure.

The downside of Suyuan's strong will is a certain stubbornness, which at times generates friction between herself and her daughter. Once Suyuan has got a bee in her bonnet about Jing-mei becoming a child prodigy, it's impossible to convince her that it's not such a good idea. Suyuan only wants the best for her daughter, but Jing-mei doesn't see it like that. She just sees a stubborn mother forcing her to do something she doesn't want to do.

In due course, Jing-mei will come to appreciate the upside to Suyuan's driven personality. Because she has such a strong will and because she is determined to achieve something once she's set her mind to it, Suyuan is finally able to track down her long-lost twin daughters in China. Sadly, Suyuan passes away before she gets the chance to be reunited with them. But Jing-mei will get to meet them, and she will be grateful to her mother for having given her such an opportunity.

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Jing-Mei’s mother, Suyuan, is a determined woman who believes that opportunity is there for those who work hard. Having survived terrible tragedies—she lost her entire family, including two babies—Suyuan demonstrates resilience and great strength. She shows a toughness with her daughter that Jing-Mei feels is unfair. However, Suyuan pressures Jing-Mei because she loves her daughter and wants her to achieve the best. Her great belief in her daughter’s abilities compels her to push Jing-Mei to be a prodigy, believing that her methods will teach Jing-Mei to believe in herself. It does not seem to matter what Jing-Mei is good at, as long as she excels at something.

It is painful to Suyuan to see Jing-Mei give up so easily. After pushing her unsuccessfully to try a number of feats, Suyuan eventually decides that Jing-Mei can become an expert at the piano and enrolls her in piano lessons. To Jing-Mei, this new test is like being “sent to hell.” When Jing-Mei protests that she is not a genius, Suyuan reprimands her for not even trying: “Only ask you be your best. For you sake.”

Suyuan is driven to pressure her daughter to succeed. From the outside looking in, one might think that mother is trying to live her own life vicariously through daughter. Jing-Mei interprets Suyuan’s behavior as a mother’s disappointment in her child. However, Suyuan merely tries to point out that her daughter must trust in herself and want the best for herself. Knowing that the way the child behaves now will impact the way she will behave in the future, Suyuan will not allow Jing-Mei to settle for mediocre in her life.

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Jing-Mei's mother began as the eternal optimist where her daughter was concerned. She believed, despite evidence to the contrary, that her daughter could be a prodigy of some kind. Unfortunately, Jing-Mei's mother was so determined to figure out where Jing-Mei's genius lies that she becomes pushy and seems to be unaccepting of who her daughter actually is. Jing-Mei says that "after seeing, once again, my mother's disappointed face, something inside me began to die. I hated the tests, the raised hopes and failed expectations." Her mother is persistent, however, and continues to push Jing-Mei, especially once she sees a little Chinese girl playing the piano on Ed Sullivan. She claims that she doesn't want her daughter to be a genius, but she wants Jing-Mei to "'be [her] best'" and work hard at something. She insists on her daughter being obedient and a hard worker, and when Jing-Mei is neither, she is disappointed. Even as an old woman, though, she never gave up on her daughter's talent. She said, "'You have natural talent. You could be a genius if you want to [....]. You just not trying,' [...]. And she was neither angry nor sad. She said it as if announcing a fact that could never be disproved." Thus, Jing-Mei's mother is loving, certainly, but her delivery of her love and belief in Jing-Mei inadvertently made her daughter feel like a terrible disappointment. This final interaction concerning the piano, though, seems to say it all. Jing-Mei's mother always believed in her, never stopped believing in her—again, she's persistent—but felt Jing-Mei never tried as hard as she could.

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The biggest characteristic concerning Jing Mei's mother that stands out is how she wants the best for her daughter, wanting her to make the most of the opportunities she has in America, their new home. However, unfortunately, this emerges in her mother placing Jing Mei under intense pressure to conform and to work hard at what her mother sets her to do. For example, receiving inspiration from the television, her mother sends Jing Mei to a beauty training school, which ends up in a hilarious accident when Jing Mei's hair is cut terribly. A magazine story about a three year old who knows the capitals of the states and many European countries starts off a host of tests on Jing Mei to improve her memory, until finally her mother sees a young Chinese girl playing the piano.

So, Jing Mei's mother undoubtedly loves her daughter very much, but she expresses that love in a way that pressurises Jing Mei and makes her feel constrained and trapped, thus heralding the conflict that we see between them in this excellent story.

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