Why does the mother reproach her daughter in "Two Kinds"?

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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June (Jing-mei) is not learning a special talent fast enough.  Her mother reproaches her for having her own mind, and not being obedient.

In “Two Kinds” June recalls a time when her mother wanted her to become a child prodigy like her “cousin” Waverly, the chess prodigy.  June’s mother is ashamed that her daughter does not have a special talent, so she tries several different skills.  June is not good at any of them. 

In fact, in the beginning I was just as excited as my mother, maybe even more so. I pictured this prodigy part of me as many different images, and I tried each one on for size.

June's enthusiasm does not last though, as she does not have a talent.  Everything comes to a head when June’s mother hires a deaf piano teacher, Mr. Chong.  Mr. Chong does not know if June is playing well or not, because he can’t hear her play.  So June goes to the recital and plays terribly.  She assumes her mother will let her quit, but two days later her mother tells her to turn off the TV and practice the piano.

June, usually an obedient daughter, explodes.  She accuses her mother of wanting to make her into something she’s not.

"Only two kinds of daughters," she shouted in Chinese. "Those who are obedient and those who follow their own mind! Only one kind of daughter can live in this house. Obedient daughter!"

June replies by angrily telling her mother she wishes she were not her daughter.  As an adult, June remembers this incident as one of the many times she disappointed her mother by not living up to expectations.


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