In "Two Kinds,"  Jing-Mei is at the piano and sees two pieces of music: on the right, "Perfectly Contented," and on the left, "Pleading Child."She writes, "They were two halves of the same song."...

In "Two Kinds,"  Jing-Mei is at the piano and sees two pieces of music: on the right, "Perfectly Contented," and on the left, "Pleading Child."

She writes, "They were two halves of the same song." Does that mean she could be both and still be one?

Expert Answers
booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

With "Two Kinds," there are several things going on.

I have often felt when reading this story, that the inference was that as much as Jing-Mei felt totally disconnected from her mother when she was growing up, that they were alike in ways she could never really understand or even recognize as a youngster.

The two pieces of music that Jing-Mei plays at the end of the story are called "Pleading Child" and "Perfectly Contented." When Jing-Mei looks at these pieces on the piano, she sees first "Pleading Child" which is more difficult to play than she remembers. For "Perfectly Contented," she sits to play it, not really remembering having played it before.

And for the first time, or so it seemed, I noticed the piece on the right-hand side.

It is as if she is seeing the second piece of sheet music for this song with new eyes: with adult eyes. When she plays them and compares them, although they are different, they seem to be connected.

And after I played them both a few times, I realized they were two halves of the same song.

The ending may imply that she could be both songs and still one. The fact that "Pleading Child" is more difficult to play than she had recalled may symbolize who she was when she struggled so much with her mom: the relationship they shared was hard, like playing the song. "Perfectly Contented" may be lighter and easier to play because as an adult, Jing-Mei feels more this way than ever before.

For me, perhaps remembering being a daughter myself and now being a mother, the message seems to tell me that Jing-Mei resented her mother and the hopes and wishes she tried to push on her daughter. However, after her mother's death, Jing-Mei looks at the piano (representing one of her mother's dreams for her—though it was unrealistic) and is able to see that she and her mother had a great deal more in common than Jing-Mei had considered before.

They were both women trying to find their way, coming from different perspectives:  a mother's and a child's, and they were really more alike than separate. I believe this knowledge comes as a surprise to Jing-Mei, but allows loose ends to be tied off, and brings her closer, even if only in her heart and memory, to her mom, to the life her mother hoped her daughter would be able to have, and how their struggles ultimately do help Jing-Mei find herself.

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Two Kinds

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