In the short story "Two Kinds" by Amy Tan, how does the point of view affect the reader's perception of the story?

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favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As a child, Jing-mei clearly feels locked in a battle with her mother over the piano. Her lack of genius, and her mother's evident disappointment, make her feel inadequate, powerless, and unloved. Because this story is told in the first person by Jing-mei, it is easier for us to sympathize with her, to feel sorry for the child that feels she is not accepted or acceptable, as is, to her mother. But there are some clues in the story which indicate that if it were told by her mother, it would be a dramatically different story, and consequently we might be much more apt to sympathize with her mother instead. For example, in the end, when Jing-mei has become an adult, her mother offers her the instrument that was the cause of so much bitterness to Jing-mei. When Jing-mei says that she probably cannot play anymore, her mother says,

"You pick up fast". . . as if she knew this was certain. "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.

It is clear that her mother believes Jing-mei to be so much more capable than Jing-mei herself believes. This can be one of the greatest tragedies of parenthood: that one's child does not understand how special or how much potential she has—that one's child does not believe in herself, lacks confidence, does not try her hardest, and never sees what she could achieve. Her statements provide a significant clue that, if this story were told in first person from the mother's perspective, we might be just as inclined to sympathize with her as we are now with Jing-mei.

ms-mcgregor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Since the story is told in first-person point of view by Jing-mei, we seem to understand and sympathize with her frustration and anger more than we do the mother's expectations and hope for her daughter and family. It is easy for us to understand the Americanized Jing-mei wanting to be able to choose her own future. However, because we are learning all of the information from her, we never truly understand why the mother is pushing her daughter so hard to be something she clearly does not want to be. We are given very little information about her life or culture in China before she came to the United States. Therefore, the mother comes across as harsh and cruel. When the mother says, "Only one kind of daughter can live in this house. Obedient daughter," the mother seems inflexible, stubborn and even a bit abusive. However, we do not know what circumstances she was brought up under or any of the problems she has had to endure in order to even have made it to the United States.