In the short story "Two Kinds" by Amy Tan, explain the meaning of the last paragraph.

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edcon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

And for the first time, or so it seemed, I noticed the piece on the right-hand side. It was called "Perfectly Contented." I tried to play this one as well. It had a lighter melody but with the same flowing rhythm and turned out to be quite easy. "Pleading Child" was shorter but slower; "Perfectly Contented" was longer but faster. And after I had played them both a few times, I realized they were two halves of the same song.

Throughout the story, the narrator has been struggling to come to terms with the reach of childhood memories into her adult life.  She reflects on both her mother's desire for her to become a child prodigy, her mother's desire to make the family proud of her, and her own rejection of her mother's expectations.  The mother/daughter conflict symbolically centers on the piano she has recently inherited. She was forced by her mother to take lessons and practice, though she had little desire to do so.  

The two songs mentioned in the last paragraph seem to represent two periods in the narrator's life.  On the right, which could be read as the present, she is, as the title goes, "Perfectly Contented" with where she is in her life.  She has found her vocation, writing, though she never did achieve the goals her mother continued to have for her: class presidency, admission to Stanford, and timely graduation from college. 

"The Pleading Child," is on the left, representing the past.  It could symbolize her feelings of wanting her mother to understand, accept, and support who she was instead of making demands on her to be a prodigy.  

The narrator's declaration that they are "two halves of the same song" symbolizes that she has come to terms with her past and her present and accepts that each has had its place in her life.  She also could be observing that time seems to pass slowly when we are children because we are held back from doing what we want, but when we are adults and free to live on our own terms, life takes on increasing momentum. 

scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the last paragraph, Jing Mei talks about the two songs she is trying to play.

And for the first time, or so it seemed, I noticed the piece on the right hand side. It was called "Perfectly Contented." I tried to play this one as well. It had a lighter melody but the same flowing rhythm and turned out to be quite easy. "Pleading Child" was shorter but slower; "Perfectly Contented" was longer but faster. And after I played them both a few times, I realized they were two halves of the same song.
 songs represent the two Jing Mei's in the story. When the narrator is a young girl in conflict with her domineering mother, she is the pleading child. She wants to be loved for who she is, not turned into someone her mother thinks she should be.  The rhythm of the piece demonstrates that childhood lasts for but a moment but for the child it seems to drag, especially when one is trying to avoid a negative situation.

The piece that Jing Mei finds later--"Perfectly Contented" symbolizes the narrator as an adult.  The lighthearted tone of the piece shows that Jing Mei has learned to laugh at herself and her past, and the longer length of the piece demonstrates that much time passes before one can become "perfectly contented." The speed of the music contrasts with "Pleading Child," because as Jing Mei has matured, she realizes that time passes too quickly, especially when one has found contentment in life.