In "Two Kinds," by Amy Tan, what does America symbolize to the narrator’s mother?

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Suyuan sees America as a symbol of the American Dream. In other words, America is a land of boundless opportunity. A person can be anybody in America, achieve anything, and become rich and famous if that is desired. This sentiment is narrated to readers by Jing-mei in the very first...

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Suyuan sees America as a symbol of the American Dream. In other words, America is a land of boundless opportunity. A person can be anybody in America, achieve anything, and become rich and famous if that is desired. This sentiment is narrated to readers by Jing-mei in the very first paragraph.

My mother believed you could be anything you wanted to be in America. You could open a restaurant. You could work for the government and get good retirement. You could buy a house with almost no money down. You could become rich. You could become instantly famous.

Suyuan has bought into the mythic belief that anybody can attain the American Dream if he/she simply works hard enough. She has bought into it because she can cite examples of people that have achieved the dream. Unfortunately, she is blind to the far bigger group of people that have tried for the dream and failed. Suyuan's belief that anybody can become rich, famous, and powerful in America is what motivates her to push Jing-mei into becoming a child prodigy of any type. Initially, Jing-mei buys into the process. She works hard for her mother, and she does want the fame and fortune.

In fact, in the beginning I was just as excited as my mother, maybe even more so. I pictured this prodigy part of me as many different images, and I tried each one on for size. I was a dainty ballerina girl standing by the curtain, waiting to hear the music that would send me floating on my tiptoes. I was like the Christ child lifted out of the straw manger, crying with holy indignity. I was Cinderella stepping from her pumpkin carriage with sparkly cartoon music filling the air.

Eventually, reality sets in for Jing-mei. She learns that a child prodigy is a rarity, and she learns to despise her mother's look of disappointment after each failed attempt. It eventually gets to the point where Jing-mei decides to intentionally sabotage each attempt. She figures that a person can't fail if he/she doesn't try.

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The narrator's mother sees America as the land of opportunity. The first sentence of the story states this right away." My mother believed you could be anything you wanted to be in America." America has always been lauded as the land of opportunity and this proved to be enticing to immigrants from many other countries. Jing-mei notes that her mother had lost everything in China: "her mother and father, her home, her first husband, and two daughters, twin baby girls." So, one can certainly sympathize with the mother and understand how the "land of opportunity" would be a welcome change after suffering such loss. 

But the mother is convinced in realizing that opportunity for her daughter. She is convinced that Jing-mei can become a child prodigy. When Jing-mei becomes a successful chess player, her mother lives vicariously through her. Jing-mei becomes caught in an identity struggle. Her mother pressures her to become successful to the point that Jing-mei feels like she is being controlled. Her mother uses the strict discipline that she's learned from her Chinese culture in order to force Jing-mei to succeed. Jing-mei wants some freedom and this is a result of her American cultural influence. Her mother doesn't quite understand this. She simply wants her daughter to be successful. Coming from such tragedy and actually seeing her daughter succeed makes the mother more convinced that America is in fact the land of opportunity. This is why she continued to push Jing-mei. 

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