What is the theme of "Two Kinds"?
Like much of Tan's work in what came to be called "The Joy Luck Club," the theme of the story revolves around the challenges in the relationship between mother and daughter, past and present culture, and personal voice and social acceptance. In their own way, each challenge is seen as "two kinds" of summits that individuals must climb in order to find some level of happiness in their lives. The background involves a Chinese mother who believes in the authenticity of the American dream for her first generation Chinese American daughter. The mother believes that the freedom offered in America can automatically translate into public success and demonstrative paths which highlight the fulfillment of "the American Dream." In some respects, one can understand this because the mother's connection to her past is severed, as China has undergone the Cultural Revolution of Mao at the time, and the mother's arrival into America represents a moment where she has only the visions of America and its dreams to accompany her in her sojourn throughout her life. The daughter, in contrast, is not burdened with such a past as she is an American citizen. Her challenge, though, comes with being forced to embrace something that is not hers to embrace. The mother accepts and strives to live the American Dream through her daughter, precisely because such opportunity was nonexistent for her in China. This plays a formative role in how the mother interacts with her daughter. The daughter wishes nothing more than "to be me." Such a disparity and how it impacts mother- daughter relationships represent the theme of Tan's work.
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