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America symbolizes opportunity and a new beginning for the narrator's mother in "Two Kinds" by Amy Tan

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In "Two Kinds" by Amy Tan, America symbolizes opportunity and a new beginning for the narrator's mother, as it represents a land where she believes her daughter can achieve anything and fulfill the American Dream, contrasting with her own difficult past in China.

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In "Two Kinds" by Amy Tan, what does America symbolize for the narrator's mother?

Suyuan sees America as a symbol of the American Dream. In other words, America is a land of boundless opportunity. A person can be anybody in America, achieve anything, and become rich and famous if that is desired. This sentiment is narrated to readers by Jing-mei in the very first paragraph.

My mother believed you could be anything you wanted to be in America. You could open a restaurant. You could work for the government and get good retirement. You could buy a house with almost no money down. You could become rich. You could become instantly famous.

Suyuan has bought into the mythic belief that anybody can attain the American Dream if he/she simply works hard enough. She has bought into it because she can cite examples of people that have achieved the dream. Unfortunately, she is blind to the far bigger group of people that have tried for the dream and failed. Suyuan's belief that anybody can become rich, famous, and powerful in America is what motivates her to push Jing-mei into becoming a child prodigy of any type. Initially, Jing-mei buys into the process. She works hard for her mother, and she does want the fame and fortune.

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. I was a dainty ballerina girl standing by the curtain, waiting to hear the music that would send me floating on my tiptoes. I was like the Christ child lifted out of the straw manger, crying with holy indignity. I was Cinderella stepping from her pumpkin carriage with sparkly cartoon music filling the air.

Eventually, reality sets in for Jing-mei. She learns that a child prodigy is a rarity, and she learns to despise her mother's look of disappointment after each failed attempt. It eventually gets to the point where Jing-mei decides to intentionally sabotage each attempt. She figures that a person can't fail if he/she doesn't try.

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In "Two Kinds" by Amy Tan, what does America symbolize for the narrator's mother?

The narrator's mother sees America as the land of opportunity. The first sentence of the story states this right away." My mother believed you could be anything you wanted to be in America." America has always been lauded as the land of opportunity and this proved to be enticing to immigrants from many other countries. Jing-mei notes that her mother had lost everything in China: "her mother and father, her home, her first husband, and two daughters, twin baby girls." So, one can certainly sympathize with the mother and understand how the "land of opportunity" would be a welcome change after suffering such loss. 

But the mother is convinced in realizing that opportunity for her daughter. She is convinced that Jing-mei can become a child prodigy. When Jing-mei becomes a successful chess player, her mother lives vicariously through her. Jing-mei becomes caught in an identity struggle. Her mother pressures her to become successful to the point that Jing-mei feels like she is being controlled. Her mother uses the strict discipline that she's learned from her Chinese culture in order to force Jing-mei to succeed. Jing-mei wants some freedom and this is a result of her American cultural influence. Her mother doesn't quite understand this. She simply wants her daughter to be successful. Coming from such tragedy and actually seeing her daughter succeed makes the mother more convinced that America is in fact the land of opportunity. This is why she continued to push Jing-mei. 

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In "Two Kinds," by Amy Tan, what does America symbolize to the narrator’s mother?

Jing-mei's mother, Suyuan, sees America as a place where her daughter can reach her full potential. In fact, the very first line spoken by the narrator reads,

My mother believed you could be anything you wanted to be in America. You could open a restaurant. You could work for the government and get good retirement. You could buy a house with almost no money down. You could become rich. You could become instantly famous.

Jing-mei's mother very much believes in the concept of the American Dream, the idea that this country is a literal land of opportunity where a person can come with little or nothing and, through hard work and perseverance, can become rich—can make it big—and be tremendously successful. She believes that her daughter is a prodigy, that Jing-mei has some hidden trove of talent just waiting to be discovered so that she, too, can be as famous and successful and rich as Shirley Temple. She wants her daughter to make the most of every single opportunity that America offers, and she believes—as Jing-mei later seems to realize—that the only thing holding Jing-mei back in America is her own lack of effort.

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In "Two Kinds," by Amy Tan, what does America symbolize to the narrator’s mother?

America symbolizes opportunity for Suyuan, Jing-mei's mother. Suyuan fled China in 1949 during the Communist Revolution. Her life in China had been traumatic; she had lost her first husband, her parents, and her two daughters. She saw America as a place where one could do anything. Tan starts the story by detailing some of the opportunities Suyuan believed were available in America. One could open a restaurant, buy a home, become rich and famous, or get a government job that provided a good retirement. Some of these impressions were probably the result of media or advertising. Buying a house "with almost no money down" sounds like it could be a phrase from an advertisement. Another reason Suyuan was convinced America was a place of opportunity was because her good friend's daughter had "become instantly famous." Auntie Lindo's daughter, Waverly, became a national chess champion when she was nine. Knowing someone whose young daughter became nationally recognized helped reinforce Suyuan's idea that "you could be anything you wanted to be in America." 

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What does America represent to the mother in "Two Kinds"?

For Jing-Mei's mother, Suyuan, America first represents the opportunity to escape her personal traumas and start a new life. Remember that her mother came to America after suffering a number of tragedies, including the death of her parents and losing her twin daughters. So, for her, America is about having a second chance at life.

Secondly, America represents the fulfillment of personal dreams and ambitions. This is shown clearly in the first line:

My mother believed you could be anything you wanted to be in America.

This belief is significant because it drives the plot of the story. At first, the mother believes that her daughter can be a Chinese version of "Shirley Temple," for example, and then a master at memorizing world capital cities. But it is her desire for Jing-Mei to become a piano prodigy which really leads the story and also creates much of the conflict. It also demonstrates that mother and daughter do not share the same ideas about America: for Suyuan, life is about living the American Dream, while her daughter simply wants the chance to be herself.

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What does America represent to the mother in "Two Kinds"?

In Amy Tan’s short story, “Two Kinds” America represents the opportunity to be whatever you want to be. Having lost her mother, father, first husband, and twin daughters in China, the mother sees America as the place where things could get better. She could erase her past with a new future, a future filled with hope. She works tirelessly and attempts to make her daughter into a child prodigy by finding a talent that suits the girl. Many failed attempts put a great strain on the mother-daughter relationship. Finally, when the daughter asserts her will, the mother is stunned that her daughter did not want to be “something” she simply wanted to be herself. The mother questioned how this could be. “Only two kinds of daughters,” she shouted in Chinese, “Those who are obedient, and those who follow their own mind.” Her daughter rebuffed her. The irony is that, in America, the daughter became what she wanted to be. She was never the best, never truly lived up to her mother’s expectations, but she was herself.

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What does the narrator's mother believe about America in "Two Kinds"?

Jing Mei's mother believed

"...you could be anything you wanted to be in America.  You could open a restaurant.  You could work for the government and get good retirement.  You could buy a house with almost no money down.  You could become rich.  You could become instantly famous".

In other words, Jing-Mei's mother believed that in America, you could make all your dreams come true.  For a woman who had lost everything in her old homeland, China - "her family home, her first husband, and two daughters", - America was "where all (her) hopes lay".  Unfortunately, Jing-Mei's mother decided to fulfill her own hopes and dreams through her daughter.

In trying to compete with her friend, whose daughter was a champion in chess, Jing-Mei's mother determined that, since in America you could achieve anything you wanted, her own daughter would be a prodigy.  At first she wanted Jing-Mei to be "a Chinese Shirley Temple", but when that endeavor ended in disaster, she then tried to make her daughter into an academic wonder.  Needless to say, that experiment did not turn out well either.  Finally, Jing-Mei's mother decided that Jing-Mei should be a piano-playing prodigy.  Even though the child had no talent and little interest in the piano, she tried to force the issue, resulting in heartbreak and embarrassment on her part and resentment and feelings of worthlessness on the part of her daughter.

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What does America represent to the mother in "Two Kinds"?

The mother thinks that America is the land of opportunity. There is the potential for a variety of different kinds of success. In coming to San Francisco, the mother had the highest hopes. 

My mother believed you could be anything you wanted to be in America. You could open a restaurant. You could work for the government and get good retirement. You could buy a house with almost no money down. You could become rich. You could become instantly famous. 

The mother takes great efforts to make her daughter into a prodigy. At first, she wants to groom her as the next Shirley Temple, the most famous child actor of her day. The mother is quite impressionable. She will be enchanted by any notion of a child success story. When she sees something of the kind in a magazine or on a television show, she is inspired to groom the daughter in the direction of some new talent. It is the mother's intention to live vicariously through her daughter and therefore, for her daughter to achieve the success that she (mother) believed was possible in America. Even when the daughter fails at the piano recital, her mother wants to continue the piano lessons. The mother's hope for her daughter in this land of opportunity trumps every setback. Although it is not overtly mentioned, the mother probably recognizes that life in America is more difficult for an immigrant. But the mother will accept no excuses. If the daughter is obedient (one kind), there is no reason she shouldn't succeed in America. 

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