What Is The Central Conflict In The Story "two Kinds" By Amy Tan?

In the story "Two Kinds" by Amy Tan, what is the conflict between Jing-mei and her mother?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The conflict between Jing-mei and her mother is over Jing-mei’s piano lessons.  Jing-mei does not want to play anymore, but her mother wants her to become a prodigy.

When Jing-mei’s mother decides she should be a prodigy, Jing-mei is on board at first.

"Of course, you can be a prodigy, too," my mother told me when I was nine. "You can be best anything…”

Jing-mei is interested in being a prodigy.  She plays along for a while, trying to become some kind of prodigy.  It doesn’t take, and Jing-mei gets frustrated.  When her mother tries to get her to take piano lessons, she is not excited.

"Why don't you like me the way I am?" I cried. "I'm not a genius! I can't play the piano. And even if I could, I wouldn't go on TV if you paid me a million dollars!"

But Jing-mei’s mother insists, and she starts the lessons with the elderly—and deaf—Mr. Chong.  Unfortunately, she figures out that she does not really have to learn anything pretty quickly.  As a result, her first concert is an embarrassment for Jing-mei and her mother.

Jing-mei and her mother have a big argument when her mother tries to get her to continue playing the piano after the disastrous conflict.  Her mother drags her to the piano bench to practice, and Jing-mei tells her she wishes she was dead like her twin babies in China.  Her mother is so saddened that she drops the issue.

kmj23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "Two Kinds," the central conflict focuses on the issue of Jing-Mei becoming a child prodigy. On one hand, her mother believes in the American Dream, the idea that it is possible for a person to be anything they want to be in the United States. She is determined that Jing-Mei will become a child prodigy of some sort. At first, she believes her daughter can be a child star, a "Chinese Shirley Temple." Later, she tries to get Jing-Mei to become a master of the piano. 

On the other hand, Jing-Mei is a girl who has very little interest in becoming a child star of any description. Although Jing-Mei goes along with her mother's obsession, she becomes increasingly frustrated and desperate for her mother to accept her for who she is. When her mother gives her the schedule for piano lessons, for example, Jing-Mei's frustration reaches its climax: 

Why don't you like me the way I am? I'm not a genius.

It is this conflict which fuels the plot of the story and has a lasting effect on the mother/daughter relationship.

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Two Kinds

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