What does Jing-mei want for herself in the story "Two Kinds"? Jing-mei is constantly being asked things of her by her mother. What does she want for herself?

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What Jing-mei wants for herself in Amy Tan’s short story “Two Kinds” is explicitly stated in these lines she recounts early on:

And then I saw what seemed to be the prodigy side of me—a face I had never seen before. I looked at my reflection, blinking...

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What Jing-mei wants for herself in Amy Tan’s short story “Two Kinds” is explicitly stated in these lines she recounts early on:

And then I saw what seemed to be the prodigy side of me—a face I had never seen before. 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 thoughts—or 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.

It is very useful to note the use of the negative here, Jing-mei does not tell us who she will be or what she wants for herself, rather she tells us what she does not want for herself. As a child of immigrants caught between two cultures, this “does not want” is critical in Jing-mei’s discovery of her own hopes and dreams.

Jing-mei feels suffocated by the burden of her mother’s expectations and tries out many selves to be someone who can make her mother proud, from a “Chinese Shirley Temple” to a precocious magician who can find the Queen in any deck of cards to a piano-playing prodigy. She knows that her mother’s expectations aren’t just a garden-variety over-ambitious mother’s demands on her child. Jing-mei’s mother is an immigrant who believes “you could be anything you wanted to be in America.” As Jing-mei notes, “America is where her hopes lay.” Crushed under these demands for perfection, Jing-mei finally explodes and makes a surprising discovery: what she wants for herself is very different from what her mother wants. As the story progresses, Jing-mei begins to form her identity in opposition to her mother, failing her at every turn by abandoning the piano and not “getting straight A’s.” But though we now know that all Jing-mei wants is the freedom to her herself, we still don’t know what form that self is to take. We—the reader and Jing-mei herself – only learn this by and by.

At one level, Jing-mei’s discovery of herself is defined by the tension between her Chinese identity, which about tradition, community, and filial obedience, and her American identity, which is about the individual self and willfulness. The cost of sticking to tradition is losing the self, while that of willfulness is being self-centered. In rejecting her mother’s expectations, Jing-mei also seems to be choosing her individualistic American identity over her Chinese self. But in rejecting the Chinese part, is Jing-mei also losing a part of herself? It is only at the very end of the story that we see Jing-mei fully be herself. The old piano she was once forced to practice, symbolic so far of the weight of her mother’s expectations and Jing-mei’s own failures, now becomes something else. 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,” she says. The “prodigy side” of Jing-mei makes her finally understand that she is both her identities, and “two kinds” of daughter after all, Chinese and American. She becomes truly herself when she gracefully accepts her past, rather than fighting it.

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After Jing-mei's rather disastrous childhood haircut, she had to have her hair cut even shorter to even it all out. However, she "liked the haircut, and it made [her] actually look forward to [her] future fame." At first, she is onboard with her mother's plans to discover the way in which she might be a prodigy, like Shirley Temple. Jing-mei even says, "in the beginning I was just as excited as my mother, maybe even more so." She imagines that she will "soon become perfect" and adored, "beyond reproach." However, she begins to become impatient while waiting for her perfection to emerge. She wants to be perfect, to please her mother, and to win praise.

But as her mother's tests grow harder, her mother's disappointment is evident, and, Jing-mei says, "something inside me began to die." She goes to her room to cry, and she wails like an animal. In this moment, she realizes her own power and will, and she promises herself that she will not "let her [mother] change [her]." Jing-mei no longer wants to be pushed and stretched by her mother; she wants to be left alone. When her mother brags to Auntie Lindo, Jing-mei "determine[s] to put a stop to her foolish pride." She just wants to feel accepted for who she is—not for who she might be. She wants to feel loved for herself, not for the sake of the bragging rights she brings her mother.

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Initally, approval from others (she really wanted to upstage Waverly).  She dreams of others heaping praise on her after her performance.

Another thing she wanted was freedom from her mother's expectations.  After she fails miserably at the talent show, Jing Mei makes it very clear that she does not want to continue with her piano lessons.  She knows that she could never be the piano player her mother wants her to be.  Her mother does realize this but it causes Jing Mei pain now she realizes that her mother will never be proud of her.

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