Why is Jing-Mei's father absent in the story "Two Kinds"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Jing-Mei's father is not really involved in the story because he is not involved in the conflict. The conflict takes place between Jing-Mei and her mother, ostensibly about the piano (but, really, the conflict seems to have more to do with Jing-Mei's failure to work hard and apply herself and her mother's belief that Jing-Mei could be great if she would only try). It is Jing-Mei's mother who forces her to try a number of different avenues to figure out where Jing-Mei's genius might lie; it is Jing-Mei's mother who makes her feel like she is not good enough, who seems to unleash the angry, rebellious child inside of her. Jing-Mei's father is really sort of a bystander, outside this relationship and not really a part of it: this is why he isn't a major part of the story.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In keeping with the theme of dynamics in mother-daughter relationships, Jing-Mei’s father plays only a minor role in “Two Kinds” by Amy Tan.

The author focuses on the interpersonal relationship between Jing-Mei and her mother while the father remains uninvolved. The mother endured unimaginable hardships in her homeland of China including losing her first husband and twin baby daughters. In America she hopes that her daughter will achieve the American Dream. Her husband does not involve himself in the volatile relationship between the two females; he remains a silent observer. The author’s purpose of examining the female relationships does not include a description of the father’s emotional reaction to his wife and daughter.

He does attend Jing-Mei’s recital. After her abysmal performance, she can feel the shame of both of her parents.

And now I realized how many people were in the audience - the whole world, it seemed. I was aware of eyes burning into my back. I felt the shame of my mother and father as they sat stiffly through the rest of the show.

Curiously, on the bus ride home her father hums a tune while his wife remains silent. This is another indication that he intends to stay out of the aftermath, once again emphasizing the minor role he plays in the theme of the story.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial