Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Tan describes herself as a lover of language, not a scholar of English. Therefore, it is her translation into English of what she calls her mother’s internal language that is at the heart of this story. Drawing the reader into the story, the narrator directs the reader through a world in which readers experience the power of a rich, colorful language. For example, when Mother Woo characterizes Auntie Lindo’s daughter, an accomplished chess player at a young age, as “best tricky,” the reader knows not only what it means but also how it sounds. This brand of English, often called fractured or broken, becomes a vernacular that captures the tone and color of the experience of growing up in a bilingual environment.

Further illustrating the conflict between Chinese mother and American-born daughter, the spoken language of the two creates a verbal duel. For example, when June demands that her mother look at who she really is, saying “I’m not a genius!” her mother responds with, “Who ask you be genius?” The mother’s question, although incomplete grammatically, projects her confusion over being unable to understand her daughter’s anger or ungratefulness.

The language also characterizes the rich, layered texture of a household built on two languages and two cultures, which often are combined to form, for example, a Chinese Shirley Temple. As her mother offers her the piano, the tense shift in her words is purposeful: “You could been genius if you want to.” Even though it starts in the past, the sentence ends in the present, indicating to June and to the reader that it is not too late for June to find her genius. Ultimately, it is Tan’s command of the “Englishes” that transforms the short story into one that captures not only her mother’s voice but also other mothers’ voices that have been silenced or, at best, standardized into an “imperfect” English that does not convey their essence, their internal language.

Historical Context

(Short Stories for Students)

Chinese Immigration to America
San Francisco was (and still is) one of the largest Chinese-American communities in the United...

(The entire section is 579 words.)

Literary Style

(Short Stories for Students)

All the stories in The Joy Luck Club are interlocking personal narratives in different voices. Because the...

(The entire section is 491 words.)

Ideas for Group Discussions

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

In "Two Kinds" Tan explores the complex and often difficult relationships between mothers and daughters. In particular, she looks at the...

(The entire section is 212 words.)

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Amy Tan's "Two Kinds" is the last story in the second of four sections of her immensely successful first book, The Joy Luck Club. Tan...

(The entire section is 828 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Short Stories for Students)

What does Jing-mei expect will happen at the recital? Does she plan to give the kind of performance that she gives? Why or why not?


(The entire section is 161 words.)

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Tan herself cites Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior (1976), Kingston's memoir of her bicultural childhood, as a major influence...

(The entire section is 45 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

"Two Kinds" is a part of the film version of The Joy Luck Club. Tan wrote the screenplay (with Ronald Bass) for the adaptation of her...

(The entire section is 73 words.)

Media Adaptations

(Short Stories for Students)

"Two Kinds’’ is a part of the film version of The Joy Luck Club. Tan wrote the screenplay (with Ronald Bass) for this adaptation...

(The entire section is 73 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Short Stories for Students)

The Woman Warrior (1976) is Maxine Hong Kingston's memoir of her bi-cultural childhood. Tan cites it as an influence on her fiction....

(The entire section is 48 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Short Stories for Students)

Angier, Carole, Review, in New Statesman and Society, June 30, 1989, p. 35.

Huntley, E. D., Amy...

(The entire section is 174 words.)


(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Duke, Lynne. “The Secrets Silence Holds.” The Washington Post, March 15, 2001, p. C1.

Gee, Alison Singh. “A Life on the Brink.” People Weekly 55, no. 18 (May 7, 2001): 85-88.

Gray, Paul. “The Joys and Sorrows of Amy Tan.” Time 157, no. 7 (February 19, 2001): 72-75.

Hamilton, Patricia L. “Feng Shui, Astrology, and the Five Elements: Traditional Chinese Belief in Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club.MELUS 24, no. 2 (Summer, 1999): 125-146.

Lyall, Sarah. “At Home with Amy Tan: In the Country of the Spirits.” The New York Times, December 28, 1995, p. C1.

Ma, Sheng-mei. “Chinese and Dogs in Amy Tan’s The Hundred Secret Senses.” MELUS 26, no. 1 (Spring, 2001): 29-45.

Mason, Deborah. “A Not-So-Dutiful Daughter.” The New York Times Book Review, November 23, 2003, 30.

Shear, Walter. “Generational Differences and the Diaspora in The Joy Luck Club.” Critique: Studies in Modern Fiction 34, no. 3 (Spring, 1993): 193-199.