What is a theme of "Two Kinds"?
Concerning Amy Tan's "Two Kinds," the enotes Study Guide on the story lists two themes. I'll cite the two it mentions and explain them.
- The American Dream: Immigrants are often influenced by the American Dream, and in this story the mother, obviously unable to attain it herself, possesses an all-encompassing desire to make her daughter do so. Her unrealistic expectations ruin the relationship between her daughter and herself.
- Identity: The mother sees herself always as a Chinese wife and mother. She attempts to force her daughter into the mold she has in mind for her. The daughter struggles with finding her own identity, and rejects the mold her mother wants to force her into.
The mother attempts to live vicariously through her daughter, and force her into an unrealistic mold. The daughter, unable to meet her mother's unrealistic expectations, rebels.
"Two Kinds" is a particularly American story—a tale of tensions between first and second generation immigrants and the problems of assimilation into American society. Attitudes have changed in recent times, with many stories emphasizing not the adjustments but instead the rights of immigrants to maintain their earlier ways of life. "Two Kinds," however, focuses on the second generation, represented by Jing Mei, who fervently wishes to establish her own identity apart from her mother, whose ardent wish is that her daughter, above all, must be obedient (paragraph 74). It is a very contemporary story.