Do you think the daughter is just as unreasonable as the mother in "Two Kinds"?

Expert Answers

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

In your question you are asked to state an opinion of the mother and daughter in Amy Tan’s story “Two Kinds.” In order to form an opinion of whether the daughter is as unreasonable as the mother, you must agree the mother is unreasonable.

As you read...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

In your question you are asked to state an opinion of the mother and daughter in Amy Tan’s story “Two Kinds.” In order to form an opinion of whether the daughter is as unreasonable as the mother, you must agree the mother is unreasonable.

As you read the story, look for evidence to support your opinion. My opinion is that both characters are unreasonable, but for very different reasons. The mother’s actions are based on her history of oppression in China, and the loss of her whole family including her twin daughters. After her long journey to America, she is determined her daughter will live the “American Dream.” She places a rigid work ethic on herself and expects her daughter to do the same. She believes in America, you can be anything, and instills that belief in her daughter.

“Of course, you can be a prodigy, too," my mother told me when I was nine. "You can be best anything.”

Unfortunately, she is determined to make her daughter into a prodigy, which she believes will come of hard work and obedience. In reality, prodigies are born with an innate ability to perform high above normal standards at a specific skill. Unfortunately, the mother does not understand this concept, and places unreasonable demands on her daughter.

The daughter, Jing-Mei “June” Woo, initially believes her mother and is excited about being a prodigy, but when the time comes to practice and perform on the piano, she realizes that she is not “special.” After a failed piano concert, the two have a hateful exchange, during which the daughter pushes her mother too far.

"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!"

"Then I wish I weren't your daughter, I wish you weren't my mother," I shouted. As I said these things I got scared. It felt like worms and toads and slimy things crawling out of my chest, but it also felt good, that this awful side of me had surfaced, at last.

"Too late to change this," my mother said shrilly.

And I could sense her anger rising to its breaking point. I wanted see it spill over. And that's when I remembered the babies she had lost in China, the ones we never talked about. "Then I wish I'd never been born!" I shouted. “I wish I were dead! Like them."

As she reaches adolescence, she completely defies her mother by going to the opposite extreme by refusing to practice or work hard in school. Instead she does the bare minimum to get by, which she knows makes her mother angry and distant. The rift between mother and daughter is deep and long-lasting. Although June is attempting to assert her individuality, she is hateful and aloof. Her actions are indicative of her unreasonableness and inability to understand her mother’s history.

The two characters demonstrate how unreasonable they can be by allowing their words to create a rift that is not forgiven until it is too late for the mother and daughter to realize their irrationality and enjoy each other as adults.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team