Describe How Jing-mei's Character Traits Change Or Stay The Same Throughout The Story. What Are Her Motivations? What Conflicts Lead To Her Character Traits?

In "Two Kinds", what are Jing-Mei's characteristics?

In "Two Kinds," Jing-mei wants her mother's love and acceptance, as she does not realize that she already has them.

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In “Two Kinds,” the narrator Jing-mei’s character is dynamic, evolving as she goes through life. It is particularly interesting to view the evolution of Jing-mei’s characteristics in the context of her identity as an American woman of Chinese origin. As the story begins, Jing-mei is an affable, agreeable child who wants to make her ambitious mother proud by adopting different persona, from a “Chinese Shirley Temple” to a precocious magician who can find the Queen in any deck of cards, to a piano-playing prodigy. Jing-mei’s mother wants her to be perfect so she can succeed in American society. However, as time goes on, Jing-mei begins to realize that what she wants for herself is very different from her mother’s expectations.

I looked at my reflection, blinking so that I could see more clearly. The girl staring back at me was angry, powerful. She and I were the same. I had new thoughts, willful thoughtsor rather, thoughts filled with lots of won'ts. I won't let her change me, I promised myself. I won't be what I'm not.

Thus, the conflict between her mother's expectations and her own sense of self begins to form Jing-mei's character traits. From agreeableness, Jing-mei moves to willfulness, a change which is partially informed by her need to distinguish her American identity from her Chinese self. As represented by her mother’s expectations, tradition begins to symbolize a blind obedience, and a stifling of the self for the community, which Jing-mei is now loath to do. Jing-mei begins to resist her mother's expectations to form her unique, individual self, even if it means disappointing her mother by abandoning the piano and not “getting straight A’s.”

However, as she turns thirty and older, Jing-mei’s relationship with her mother improves somewhat, suggesting that Jing-mei needs to find a cathartic way to reconnect with her mother, and by extension holistically reconcile her selves as an American woman and a Chinese daughter.

Visiting her home after her mother’s death, Jing-mei comes across the old piano she was once forced to practice. The piano, symbolic so far of the weight of her mother’s expectations and Jing-mei’s own failures, now gains another meaning. Jing-mei no longer fears the piano, choosing instead to sit in front of it, open its lid and touch the keys.

It sounded even richer that I remembered. Really, it was a very good piano…. I played a few bars, surprised at how easily the notes came back to me.

Thus, Jing-mei finally grows into “two kinds” of identities, accepting that her American and Chinese selves are a part of each other, much as her mother will always be a part of her, like “two halves of the same song.” Thus, Jing-mei comes full circle, growing into forgiveness and grace.

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In Amy Tan's short story "Two Kinds" that was published in the book The Joy Luck Club, Jing-mei Woo is the first person narrator describing her childhood, her...

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mother's dreams, and recollecting those dreams as an adult.

Jing-mei's mother has dreams that anything is possible in America. She attempts to impose those dreams on her daughter. In fact, she believes her daughter can be a prodigy. At first, Jing-mei believes in these impossible dreams. Her mother prods her into believing she can be a "Chinese Shirley Temple." Next, after her hair cut, she looks more like Peter Pan with a bad hair cut. At this point, Jing-mei is an obedient daughter almost believing she could be a prodigy. She fantasizes about becoming a ballerina, a Christ child and Cinderella. She says, "In all of my imaginings I was filled with a sense that I would soon become perfect."

However, the turning point comes when her mother starts quizzing her, and Jing-mei finally rebels. Her character changes from an obedient to willful daughter. As she looks into the mirror she recognizes her new "thoughts filled with lots of won'ts. I won't let her change me, I promised myself. I won't be what I'm not" (paragraph 4). This is the turning point in the story. Jing-mei decides to be herself, and this becomes the conflict between mother and daughter as Jing-mei struggles to establish her own identity.

After the failure of the piano lessons and Jing-mei's embarrassment at the talent show, her mother still wants Jing-mei to be obedient. However, it is too late for obedience when in a rage, Jing-mei screams at her mother, wishing she had never been born. For years, Jing-mei doesn't live up to her mother's dreams, yet her mother never gives up hope. However, Jing-mei knows that she can only be herself, and that person is neither talented nor a prodigy.

It is only after her mother's death that Jing-mei finally understands the two aspects of her personality symbolized by the old sheet music she finds at the piano: "Perfectly Contented" and "Pleading Child." Thus, as an adult, Jing-mei finally recognizes these two sides of her are one and the same.

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Concerning Jing-Mei in Amy Tan's "Two Kinds," the enotes Study Guide on the story says the following about her:

Jing-Mei is a rebellious child caught between two cultures: the Chinese culture that prevails in her mother's home; and the American one that prevails everywhere else. She resists her mother's attempts at discipline and resents the pressures of high achievement that immigrant parents typically place on their children.

She also understands that her mother is using her to win a competition with her friend Lindo Jong; both women brag about whose daughter is more talented. She is resolved to be true to herself and not take part in such a competition. Refusing to practice the piano, she tells her mother that she wishes she were dead, like the babies she knows her mother was forced to abandon when she fled China. She regrets saying such hurtful things later.

It is important to remember that Jing-Mei is the child in the relationship between her and her mother.  She does not dictate the terms of the relationship.  The absolutism and unrealistic expectations the mother places upon her determine the nature of the hostility between them. 

Jing-Mei, in fact, is a normal, American adolescent.  And she's smart enough to recognize the faults in her mother's plans for her.  Her mother tries to live vicariously through her, and Jing-Mei will have none of it. 

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What are two characteristics of Jing-mei in "Two Kinds"?

The story's title refers to a statement Jing-mei's mother makes about the two kinds of daughters that exist in the world: those who are obedient and those who "follow their own mind." Jing-mei makes the choice to be the second kind of daughter, and she defies her mother's commands to practice piano. Previously she had failed to become the prodigy her mother wanted her to be. She had deceived her mother into thinking she was working at piano lessons, but at the talent show, she displayed her sloppy playing, causing embarrassment for herself and her mother. After that failure, Jing-mei feels her will getting stronger. She concludes, "I didn't have to do what my mother said anymore. I wasn't her slave."

However, the willfulness that Jing-mei's mother perceives in her is not the only thing that is awakening in her daughter. Jing-mei is more and more craving authenticity, the right to be who she is. Her mother doesn't realize how hurtful her aspirations for her daughter are; Jing-mei takes them as a rejection of herself, at one point lashing out with the words, "Why don't you like me the way I am?" Later, when her mother tries to physically force her to play piano, she sobs, "You want me to be someone that I'm not!" 

Summarizing their relationship as Jing-mei grew older, Jing-mei states, "I failed her so many times, each time asserting my own will." She explains that even though her mother believed her daughter could be anything she wanted to be, "I could only be me." Thus the two characteristics of Jing-mei that put her at odds with her mother were her willfulness and her desire for authenticity--being true to herself. 

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In Tan's "Two Kinds," identify specific character traits of Jing- Mei.

One of June's character traits in Tan's "Two Kinds" is that she is fundamentally trapped.  June is trapped between the world of her Chinese ancestry and the American world around her.  This character trait underscores her narrative in the story.  She feels the need to appease her mother's wishes, but at the same time actively resents it and rebels against it.  June feels trapped between both worlds because she is unable to find happiness in either one. She recognizes that she will never be the piano prodigy her mother wishes.  This trait of being trapped is evident in the exchange between mother and daughter about playing the piano:

"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!"My mother slapped me. "Who ask you to be genius?" she shouted. "Only ask you be your best. For you sake. You think I want you to be genius? Hnnh! What for! Who ask you!”?

June clearly understands that she will not find happiness in outwardly rejecting her mother's wishes.  She lives at the hyphen of being "Asian- American," and is trapped between both worlds, unable to find happiness in either.

Another character trait that June shows is a sobering self- awareness.  June clearly recognizes her own limitations.  Her mother does not see this as much as June does.  June understands that she is "not a genius."  She demonstrates this trait when she is playing the piano for her auditory limited teacher:  "I would play after him, the simple scale, the simple chord, and then just play some nonsense that sounded like a cat running up and down on top of garbage cans."  The "simple" extent to which June would play the piano clearly demonstrates that June understands her own condition and accepts the limitations of her own place in the world:  "Unlike my mother, I did not believe I could be anything I wanted to be, I could only be me."   This represents part of the fundamental collision between June and her mother.

Finally, the ending of the story displays June as one who seeks to bring unity to that which has been fragmented.  June's trait of wishing for harmony is not simply literal in how she wishes the piano to be tuned, honoring her mother's wishes.  Rather, she wishes to appease her mother, even after death.  In recognizing that the melodies she plays are "two halves of the same song," June has displayed a desire to reconcile that which was previously separate and no longer living at the hyphen of being in the world.

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What does Jing-mei want in "Two Kinds"?

Jing-mei begins "Two Kinds" by talking about her mother's ambitions for her. Her mother connects the idea of America as the land of limitless opportunity with the idea that Jing-mei will be a child prodigy, achieving stardom with her talent.

Starting with the idea that Jing-mei will be the next Shirley Temple, her mother throws herself into various plans to bring her daughter fame and fortune. However, Jing-mei becomes increasingly disillusioned with these ideas. She starts to worry that perhaps she has no special talent, and that this would mean that she will "always be nothing." By the time her mother acquires a piano and makes her practice "Pleading Child," the aptness of the piece's name is all too apparent. At this point, Jing-mei rebels and reveals her anger and frustration to her mother:

"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!"

Jing-mei's initial attempts to be a child prodigy and her later reaction against her mother trying to make her one spring from the same source: a longing for her mother's affection and acceptance. It is only later that she realizes that she already had these, and that her mother's continual efforts to find her a role as a prodigy were an expression of love rather than being a precondition for it.

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In "Two Kinds," what are some different characteristics the mother and Jing-mei have?

I think that the major difference between Jing-mei and her mother is the their view of status.  About halfway through the story, Jing-mei decides to be happy with who she is.  She will not be forced into becoming something that she is not.  She's happy how she is.  Jing-mei's mother, on the other hand, wants to force Jing-mei into being a child prodigy of some kind.  Part of her reason for pushing Jing-mei is so that Jing-mei can be can be famous.  That would make Suyuan famous by association.  

"If she had as much talent as she has temper, she'd be famous now."

Suyuan definitely believes that fame, fortune, and status is part of attaining the American Dream.  

My mother believed you could be anything you wanted to be in America. . . You could become rich. You could become instantly famous.

I believe that is a key difference between the two characters.  Suyuan feels this need to push herself and her family hard to achieve fame and fortune; however, Jing-mei doesn't see that as a worthwhile goal.  It's not that Jing-mei is lazy.  She simply doesn't feel an overwhelming need to mold herself into something else that might bring her fame and fortune.  Jing-mei believes that her own identity and happiness is ultimately more important than fame and fortune. 

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