Student Question

How did Jing Mei feel about becoming a prodigy in "Two Kinds"?

Quick answer:

Jing-mei is initially excited by the idea of becoming a prodigy, but she becomes disillusioned when she fails to find her talent. Over time, Jing-mei finds that her mother's expectations have become burdensome and humiliating.

Expert Answers

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

When Jing-mei is nine years old, her mother tells her that she can be a prodigy, preeminent in any field. Jing-mei's mother connects the idea of her daughter's limitless talent with the endless opportunities she believes are available in America. At first, Jing-mei is excited by the thought of becoming a prodigy and participates enthusiastically in identifying her own talent. Under her mother's guidance, she tries out different skills and activities to determine what type of prodigy she might be. She believes that once she finds her talent, she will be perfect at it, and her parents will adore her.

As time passes, however, Jing-mei becomes impatient and then frustrated. She hears her inner prodigy telling her that if she does not release her soon, the opportunity to be exceptional will disappear forever. Her prodigy adds: "And then you'll always be nothing."

This feeling that she won't be good enough for her mother unless she can become a prodigy eventually causes Jing-mei to reject the whole idea. She thinks that her mother only wants a daughter about whose accomplishments she can boast. After her failure to become a prodigy, or even to perform adequately as a pianist, Jing-mei rejects her mother's view of success, determined to be herself no matter what: "Unlike my mother, I did not believe I could be anything I wanted to be, I could only be me."

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial