What does the mother's gift of the piano reveal about her character at the end of Amy Tan's story "Two Kinds"?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The gift of the piano is a complex one.  Although Jing-mei was never able to become proficient at the piano, she does have a sentimental attachment to it.   Her mother wanted her to have it because it was hers.  It was a vestige of her childhood.  Jing-mei’s relationship with her mother was never easy.  Her mother just wanted her to be successful. 

The piano was a failure because Jing-mei was unable to communicate with her mother.  She wanted to be a prodigy at first, but became disenchanted with the process because she felt that her mother wanted her to be something she was not.  In fact, her mother just wanted her to learn the value of hard work.

So she surprised me. A few years ago she offered to give me the piano, for my thirtieth birthday. I had not played in all those years. I saw the offer as a sign of forgiveness, a tremendous burden removed.

The song that Jing-mei plays demonstrates the complexity of the mother-child relationship. As a child, she did not realize that what she thought were two songs were two halves of the same song.  As an adult, she is able realize that they are the same song. 

"Pleading Child" was shorter but slower; "Perfectly Contented" was longer but faster. And after I had played them both a few times, I realized they were two halves of the same song.

This demonstrates her growing understanding of her mother.  Her mother pushed her, but it was because she wanted her to be happy and she understood that it takes hard work to be successful.