What ideas does Amy Tan present about factors which shape an individual's identity in "Two Kinds"?

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The story helps us appreciate that two factors that shape us are heredity and environment.  Jing-mei’s mother influences her because she tries to teach her a specific set of values that she hopes will be successful.  Her mother, in turn, is influenced by her own environment.  She is an immigrant so she brings along a set of expectations for success in America.  She is also influenced by media and the neighborhood.

Jing-mei’s mother wants her to be successful.  This is why she decides to make her a prodigy, or a child genius.

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.

At first, Jing-mei is willing to go along with the prodigy experiment, and even thinks it is fun.  It turns out to be a bust, through.  Jing-mei has no hidden instant talent, and she doesn’t really understand that she has to work at something to get good at it.

Jing-mei’s mother sees the kids on television and wants her daughter to be like them.

I could see why my mother was fascinated by the music. It was being pounded out by a little Chinese girl, about nine years old, with a Peter Pan haircut. The girl had the sauciness of a Shirley Temple. She was proudly modest, like a proper Chinese child.

Jing-mei and her mother do not communicate very well, which is what leads to the argument and the lack of follow-through with the piano lessons.  Jing-mei thinks her mother just wants her to be perfect.  Her mother wants her to learn to work hard.  In the end, Jing-mei does seem to be influenced by her mother, and her mother’s influences, because she looks back on this and takes the piano.

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