In the novel Two Kinds by Amy Tan, what is symbolized by the Shirley Temple incident?
Whether intentional or not, the Shirley Temple section could be interpreted in two ways.
One way to look at the Shirley Temple incident is to see it as a coming of age story. Jing-mei has had enough of her mother's pushing her to be something she is not. The Shirley Temple incident involves Suyuan attempting to force Jing-mei into being a child prodigy like Shirley Temple. Beautiful, smart, well spoken, amazing musician, etc. You name it, Suyuan pushed her daughter to be brilliant, and Jing-mei intentionally subverted all of those attempts. She knew who she was and what she was capable of. By the end of the incident, Jing-mei has gained the confidence to tell Suyuan that she will not be the person that her mother wants her to be. It's definitely a moment of growth and independence for Jing-mei.
On the other hand, the Shirley Temple incident also represents a break in and disintegration of Jing-mei's and Suyuan's relationship with each other. Jing-mei even tells her mom that she would rather be dead than be Suyuan's daughter. While their relationship wasn't as heated as that argument all of the time, Jing-mei and Suyuan didn't forgive each other for the incident until Jing-mei was 30 years old.