How does the daughter evolve in the story "Two Kinds"?

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When Jing-mei was a child, it did not take long for her to rebel against her mother's expectations of her. Suyuan, Jing-mei's mother, believed that Jing-mei could be a prodigy of some kind, of any kind, and so she pushed Jing-mei hard in order to find out what kind of prodigy she could become. They tried geography, math, gymnastics, weather prediction, memorization, and more. However, Jing-mei grew to feel that she would always be "ordinary" and so she promised herself that she would not "let her [mother] change [her]." She became willful and began to reject her mother's tests and strategies. Their relationship became a power struggle. Jing-mei assertied herself and insisted that she could not be a prodigy, and rather, should be loved the way she was. Her mother believed that Jing-mei could be great if she would only "be [her] best" and work hard.

Eventually, Jing-mei tells Suyuan that she wished she was not her mother. Adding insult to injury, Jing-mei wishes that she, would die like Suyuan's other daughters in China did. By the end of the story, however, Jing-mei explains that she has begun to think of the piano as a "trophy that [she] had won back" rather than as some symbol of her own failures and her mother's disappointments. She has come to recognize that her mother simply believed that Jing-mei hadn't tried her best, and that she could have been a "genius" if she'd have been willing to try. Jing-mei's bitterness and resentment is gone and has been replaced by something like affection and pride.

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The story "Two Kinds" takes place over a relatively short time span, and Jing-mei does a massive shift in her personality that drives a huge wedge between Jing-mei and her mother. When the story first begins, readers are told that Suyuan believes that a person can become anything and do anything in America if the desire and work ethic are both present. Suyuan believes that Jing-mei can be a rich and famous child prodigy like Shirley Temple, and Jing-mei is caught up in the enthusiasm and believes it too. To her credit, Jing-mei works very hard at each form of child prodigy, but her mother's continual looks of disappointment begin to dishearten Jing-mei. Eventually, Jing-mei decides that she has had enough of it, and she wants to pursue her own desires.

I looked at my reflection, blinking so that I could see more clearly. The girl staring back at me was angry, powerful. She and I were the same. I had new thoughts, willful thoughts - or rather, thoughts filled with lots of won'ts. I won't let her change me, I promised myself. I won't be what I'm not.

She wants to be her own person, so she begins to intentionally and stubbornly sabotage each new prodigy attempt. The conflict between mother and daughter escalates until the two characters have a screaming match at each other that has extremely hurtful things being said to each other.

"You want me to be something that I'm not!" I sobbed. " I'll never be the kind of daughter you want me to be!"

"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.

Jing-mei has changed from being an obedient daughter that seeks her mother's favor to an independently thinking child that isn't afraid of speaking her own mind.

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In Amy Tan’s story “Two Kinds,” the daughter, Jing-Mei “June” Woo, changes from a child into a young woman. She reaches adulthood and a deeper understanding of her mother.

As a child, June acquiesces to her mother’s belief that in America you can be anything, including a child prodigy. The two watch television shows and read magazines that show how children become famous for their talents. Even when her mother tries to “Americanize” her looks with haircuts and treatments, the daughter is compliant.

As she grows older, June begins to understand she is not a prodigy. But not only is she not a prodigy, she does not work hard or apply herself as her mother wants her to. Although her mother works at menial jobs to provide for June, the two have conflicting ideas about the daughter’s life. After June fails to live up to her mother’s expectations in her piano recital, the two quarrel. Neither one minces words. The mother tells her daughter there are only two kinds of daughters: those who follow their own minds and those who are obedient. June tells he mother she wishes she was dead like her twin sisters, who died in China. The pair come to an impasse as June defies her mother and strives to establish her own identity, while the mother forgoes her hopes and dreams for her child. June changes from a complicit child to a non-conformist teen and young adult. She strives to live life on her own terms, unencumbered by her mother’s past.

For her thirtieth birthday, June’s mother offers to give her the piano.  At first, June sees this as a prize instead of a peace offering. After the mother’s death, June realizes the complexity of the mother-daughter relationship.

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How does the daughter change over the course of the story?

In “Two Kinds” by Amy Tan Jing-Mei grows from an obedient child into an independent young woman.

As a young girl she shares her mother’s enthusiasm for the American dream. When her mother explains the opportunities in America and how June could be a prodigy, the little girl willingly participated in her mother’s plans. Together they watch shows, and read magazines about child prodigies.

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.

June based her self-worth on pleasing her mother and becoming the perfect child.

In all of my imaginings I was filled with a sense that I would soon become perfect.

Suyuan choose the piano as June’s talent. When June realizes the amount of practice needed to become a talented pianist she begins to question her mother’s motives. June is aware she does not have the innate talent of a prodigy. She fails during her piano recital and her internal conflict comes to light. The internal conflict soon surfaces during an argument with her mother, and creates a wedge between the pair. As June advances through school, she is determined to be perfectly average. Her grades are mediocre, and she flounders in college.

It was not the only disappointment my mother felt in me. In the years that followed, I failed her many times, each time asserting my will, my right to fall short of expectations. I didn't get straight As. I didn't become class president. I didn't get into Stanford. I dropped out of college.

At the beginning of the story, June is a little girl who sees life through her mother’s eyes but soon decides to assert her individualism in spite of her mother’s feelings. At the end of the story, June plays two musical pieces on the piano. The compositions entitled “Perfectly Contented” and “Pleading Child” are symbolic of her life.

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