Discussion Topic

Analysis of the title and ending of "Two Kinds."

Summary:

The title and ending of "Two Kinds" highlight the conflict between traditional and modern values. Jing-mei’s mother insists there are "two kinds of daughters: those who are obedient and those who follow their own mind," demanding obedience. The story, part of Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club, explores Jing-mei's struggle against her mother's expectations, culminating in her acceptance of the piano as a symbol of her individuality.

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What does the title "Two Kinds" imply? What are the two kinds?

Jing-mei’s mother is very traditional when it comes to raising children. As far as she’s concerned, children must always be obedient to their parents and show respect toward them at all times. This neat little picture, however, is complicated by the fact that Jing-mei, unlike her mother, is more American than Chinese, and so she doesn't have the same respect for the old traditions.

Somewhat inevitably, this leads to considerable tensions between mother and daughter, which form the basis of much of the action in “Two Kinds.” Such tensions are exacerbated by the insistence of Jing-mei’s mother that her daughter is to become a child prodigy, just like the ones she sees performing in talent contests on television. After forcing Jing-mei to try her hand at several different talents, her mother decides that Jing-mei will become a piano prodigy. But Jing-mei doesn't want this for herself; she doesn't regard herself as a genius or even enjoy her piano lessons, and she feels increasingly stifled by her mother’s expectations.

During the argument following the disastrous piano recital, Jing-mei’s mother lays down the law, and in doing so, she reveals the meaning of the story’s title. She tells Jing-mei in no uncertain terms that there are two kinds of daughters: “those who are obedient and those who follow their own mind!” In case there was any doubt, Jing-mei’s mother makes it clear that only an obedient daughter is welcome in her house.

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What is "Two Kinds" about?

You have asked rather a broad question, so I have included links below to the relevant study section of enotes on this short story to help you gain further information about it.

"Two Kinds" is actually taken from a novel by Amy Tan called The Joy Luck Club, which follows the fortunes of four Chinese immigrants to the United States and their relations with their daughters. Of course, the fact that their daughters are born in the United States creates a conflict, as their mothers maintain traditional Chinese values and expectations of their children and their daughters grow up learning the American way of life.

This conflict is at the centre of "Two Kinds," as Jing-Mei faces the overwhelming pressure of her mother for her to become a "prodigy" and to gain fame and status through her talents. Thus it is that Jing-Mei is forced into having piano lessons with a deaf piano teacher, with disastrous results. At its heart, this excellent short story is about Jing-Mei's struggle to be accepted by her mother for who she is, rather than who her mother would like her to be. Her success in this is indicated by the way in which her mother gives her the piano that had been the sight of their bitterest conflict, which Jing-Mei calls her own "shiny trophy," indicating the way that she believes she has won it on her own terms.

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What is "Two Kinds" about?

"Two Kinds" is a short story by 20th Century Chinese-American author Amy Tan. It tells the story of a young girl named Ni-Kan. Ni-Kan is the child of a woman to emigrated to the United States after losing everything (including two daughters) in her home country of China. Ni Kan's mother is intensely proud of her only surviving child, and she wants her to become a child prodigy. The story then details all of the many types of prodigy that Ni Kan's mother had hoped her child might become, and it reaches its climax when Ni Kan's own wishes and behavior find themselves in direct conflict with the wishes and aspirations of her mother.

This is a quick, easy story to read, and it explores issues of family and self in conflict.

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What is the meaning of the ending in "Two Kinds"?

At the end of "Two Kinds," Jing-mei's mother has died, and Jing-mei is sorting through her possessions. She starts to play the piano that had been such a cause for contention between mother and daughter, and realizes what a fine instrument it is. She starts to play "Pleading Child," the piece she was forced to learn for a talent show as a child. It comes back to her with surprising ease. She then notices, as she never has before, that opposite this piece is another called "Perfectly Contented." When she plays this, she feels the two pieces complement each other perfectly, finally realizing that they are two halves of the same song.

Jing-mei spent much of her childhood in conflict with her mother, whose insistence that she learn to play the piano was one of many such enthusiasms. Jing-mei wished her mother would leave her alone, feeling that the only reason she was pushed into all these activities was that her mother wanted to be able to boast about her, using her achievements in a game of one-upmanship with other mothers. At the end of the story, however, she comes to realize that her mother's love for her was not at odds with the qualities she found infuriating. The boastfulness and ambition against which she fought were also expressions of love.

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What happens at the end of the story "Two Kinds" by Amy Tan?

The conflict of "Two Kinds" revolves around Jing-mei's mother's attempt to make her into a "prodigy" and Jing-mei's struggle to be who she is. The action reaches a climax when, following an embarrassing performance at a piano recital, Jing-mei refuses to practice piano. Rather than being simply passively non-compliant as she has been so far, Jing-mei rebels against her mother's direct command to practice the piano. Her mother physically drags her to the piano bench and tells Jing-mei that if she is to live in her family's home, she must be an obedient daughter. Jing-mei lashes out verbally, telling her mother she wishes she had never been born — or that she had died like her mother's twin baby girls. Jing-mei's cruel outburst silences her mother, and she never asks Jing-mei to practice piano again. 

After this scene, the story moves into a sort of epilogue. The narrator fast-forwards through her adolescence and young adulthood, noting she disappointed her mother many more times over the years, including by dropping out of college. When Jing-mei is thirty years old, her mother offers to give her the piano, which hasn't been played since that painful day of their powerful conflict. Even as she offers her the instrument, she can't help slipping in a jab at Jing-mei, saying she could have been a great pianist if she had only tried.

The story ends with the narrator describing a scene when she returns to her mother's house a few months after her mother's death. She sits down at the piano to play the recital song, "Pleading Child," that she botched, and she finds she can play it pretty easily. She then notices that it is paired with a companion piece, "Perfectly Contented," and she remarks that they are "two halves of the same song." This suggests Jing-mei had to go through the conflict with her mother to emerge as someone who can be "perfectly contented" with herself as she is, not as someone else wants her to be.

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What happens at the end of the story, "Two Kinds"?

Jing-Mei is able to stop her mother from dragging her to piano lessons by saying that she wishes she were one of the babies her mother abandoned years ago in China. This hurtful comment causes the mother to stop the piano lessons, Years later, once Jing-mei has grown, the mother offers to give her the piano. This is probably the mother's way of making peace but Jing-mei doesn't understand the reasoning behind the mother's decision. The ending may not be particularly satisfying but it's important to remember that this story is only part of an entire novel, "The Joy Luck Club,and the relationship between Jing-mei and her mother is explored in much more detail in the novel.

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