Please describe Jing-mei's mother's character in "Two Kinds."

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"Two Kinds " is a first-person narrative in which Jing-mei tells the story. It is important to remember that we are reading the child's description of her mother, rather than that of an omniscient narrator, who could be expected to have an more balanced perspective and to focus less...

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"Two Kinds" is a first-person narrative in which Jing-mei tells the story. It is important to remember that we are reading the child's description of her mother, rather than that of an omniscient narrator, who could be expected to have an more balanced perspective and to focus less on the relationship between mother and daughter.

Jing-mei, like many children, finds her mother exasperating. The generation gap is exacerbated by a difference in cultures, as well as by her mother's unrealistic expectations.

Jing-mei's mother lost everything in China. Partly because of this, she has a very positive view of America as the land of opportunity, especially for the young. Optimism (indeed, an unreasonable degree of optimism) and energy are central to her character. She is always hatching new schemes for her daughter to be famous and successful and is disappointed (and inclined to blame Jing-mei) when these plans fail to bear fruit. She is ambitious and competitive, with her main competitor being her friend Lindo. However, the two of them do not compete directly, but fight a proxy war through the accomplishments of their daughters. Since Lindo's daughter, Waverly, is unusually gifted, this competition is a constant source of stress for Jing-mei and causes friction between mother and daughter.

Jing-mei's mother lives vicariously through her daughter. This makes her a paradox, both selfless and selfish. She will make any sacrifice for Jing-mei to be able to achieve success, but the goals are always the ones she herself sets, without considering what her daughter wants.

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Jing-mei’s mother, we learn in the opening paragraph of “Two Kinds,” believes in the American Dream. Her version of the American Dream—we learn over the course of the story—is the product of popular culture. As such, its burden is placed on her daughter.

Although the mother ultimately decides that Jing-mei should develop her genius as a master pianist, when the story begins the mother is still considering different routes for success. Jing-mei’s mother left behind her life and her first family in China to come to the United States, and she sees her new life in and through her daughter. For the mother, the question is not whether Jing-mei will be a prodigy; instead, it is a matter of what kind of prodigy she will be. The mother is heavily influenced by the cultural narratives around her, and she forces her daughter to study old Shirley Temple movies. Ultimately they settle on the piano because they see a young Chinese girl who looks like Jing-mei on television. This reveals that her mother is susceptible to various cultural representations.

Jing-mei’s mother is certainly demanding, and we get the sense that her demands are balanced by the sacrifices that she has made. She demands that Jing-mei practice the piano, but even more than this she demands obedience:

“Only two kinds of daughters," she shouted in Chinese. "Those who are obedient and those who follow their own mind! Only one kind of daughter can live in this house. Obedient daughter!”

She views her daughter as an extension of herself, and as such, demands her obedience because she believes it is the most direct route to a happy life.

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The mother in Amy Tan's, "Two Kinds," is an immigrant who wholeheartedly embraces the American Dream.  She can't live it herself, so she tries to force her daughter to live it for her.

She tries to coerce her daughter into becoming a child prodigy:  she wants a superstar for a daughter.  She doesn't care what her daughter becomes famous for, she just wants her to become famous.  She sets impossible goals for her daughter based on American TV.

Her abrasive methods backfire, of course, and Jing-Mei rebels.

Perhaps most telling, the mother sees the world in a simplistic manner, telling her daughter that there are only two kinds of daughters, ones who obey absolutely everything a parent says, and ones who don't.  This is simplistic, as well as sexist, of course.  The world is not that simple, and can't be divided into two clear, black and white, dichotomies, or parts.  The mother wants Jing-Mei to know her place, a woman's place, like she, herself, apparently does.  

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