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Jing-Mei's mother's desires and needs for her in "Two Kinds" from The Joy Luck Club


Jing-Mei's mother desires for her daughter to become a prodigy, reflecting her own aspirations and the high expectations she has for Jing-Mei's success and fulfillment. She believes that with hard work and determination, Jing-Mei can achieve greatness and bring honor to the family.

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What does Jing-Mei's mother desire for her in "Two Kinds"?

In Amy Tan’s story “Two Kinds,” Jing-mei’s mother wants her daughter to live the American Dream. She believes America is the land of endless opportunities. Specifically, she wants her daughter to be a prodigy. Unfortunately, her mother does not understand what a prodigy is. By definition, a prodigy is a person who has a natural, innate talent or area of expertise that it far above others, especially in children.

"Of course, you can be a prodigy, too," my mother told me when I was nine. "You can be best anything.”

In the beginning, both mother and daughter foster the prodigy idea. They spend hours deciding on Jing-mei's area of expertise. Should she be a ballerina, an actor, or a musician? The pair read magazines and watch television programs as they decide which talent Jing-mei should aspire to. Her mother believes her daughter can be the best at anything if she works hard and practices. Jing-mei has a vision of being the perfect child if only she can determine her area of expertise. They try a number of things before settling on the piano. Unfortunately, Jing-mei never practices enough to play well, and she definitely is not a child prodigy on the piano. This leads to a rift between the pair.

"Why don't you like me the way I am?" I cried. "I'm not a genius! I can't play the piano. And even if I

could, I wouldn't go on TV if you paid me a million dollars!"

My mother slapped me. "Who ask you to be genius?" she shouted. "Only ask you be your best. For you sake. You think I want you to be genius? Hnnh! What for! Who ask you!”

Jing-mei’s mother wants the best for her daughter but does not understand that success comes in many different forms.

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What does Jing-mei want for herself in the story "Two Kinds"? Jing-mei is constantly being asked things of her by her mother. What does she want for herself?

What Jing-mei wants for herself in Amy Tan’s short story “Two Kinds” is explicitly stated in these lines she recounts early on:

And then I saw what seemed to be the prodigy side of me—a face I had never seen before. 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.

It is very useful to note the use of the negative here, Jing-mei does not tell us who she will be or what she wants for herself, rather she tells us what she does not want for herself. As a child of immigrants caught between two cultures, this “does not want” is critical in Jing-mei’s discovery of her own hopes and dreams.

Jing-mei feels suffocated by the burden of her mother’s expectations and tries out many selves to be someone who can make her mother proud, from a “Chinese Shirley Temple” to a precocious magician who can find the Queen in any deck of cards to a piano-playing prodigy. She knows that her mother’s expectations aren’t just a garden-variety over-ambitious mother’s demands on her child. Jing-mei’s mother is an immigrant who believes “you could be anything you wanted to be in America.” As Jing-mei notes, “America is where her hopes lay.” Crushed under these demands for perfection, Jing-mei finally explodes and makes a surprising discovery: what she wants for herself is very different from what her mother wants. As the story progresses, Jing-mei begins to form her identity in opposition to her mother, failing her at every turn by abandoning the piano and not “getting straight A’s.” But though we now know that all Jing-mei wants is the freedom to her herself, we still don’t know what form that self is to take. We—the reader and Jing-mei herself – only learn this by and by.

At one level, Jing-mei’s discovery of herself is defined by the tension between her Chinese identity, which about tradition, community, and filial obedience, and her American identity, which is about the individual self and willfulness. The cost of sticking to tradition is losing the self, while that of willfulness is being self-centered. In rejecting her mother’s expectations, Jing-mei also seems to be choosing her individualistic American identity over her Chinese self. But in rejecting the Chinese part, is Jing-mei also losing a part of herself? It is only at the very end of the story that we see Jing-mei fully be herself. The old piano she was once forced to practice, symbolic so far of the weight of her mother’s expectations and Jing-mei’s own failures, now becomes something else. Jing-mei no longer fears the piano, choosing instead to sit in front of it, open its lid and touch the keys. “It sounded even richer that I remembered. Really, it was a very good piano . . . I played a few bars, surprised at how easily the notes came back to me,” she says. The “prodigy side” of Jing-mei makes her finally understand that she is both her identities, and “two kinds” of daughter after all, Chinese and American. She becomes truly herself when she gracefully accepts her past, rather than fighting it.

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What does Jing-mei want for herself in the story "Two Kinds"? Jing-mei is constantly being asked things of her by her mother. What does she want for herself?

After Jing-mei's rather disastrous childhood haircut, she had to have her hair cut even shorter to even it all out. However, she "liked the haircut, and it made [her] actually look forward to [her] future fame." At first, she is onboard with her mother's plans to discover the way in which she might be a prodigy, like Shirley Temple. Jing-mei even says, "in the beginning I was just as excited as my mother, maybe even more so." She imagines that she will "soon become perfect" and adored, "beyond reproach." However, she begins to become impatient while waiting for her perfection to emerge. She wants to be perfect, to please her mother, and to win praise.

But as her mother's tests grow harder, her mother's disappointment is evident, and, Jing-mei says, "something inside me began to die." She goes to her room to cry, and she wails like an animal. In this moment, she realizes her own power and will, and she promises herself that she will not "let her [mother] change [her]." Jing-mei no longer wants to be pushed and stretched by her mother; she wants to be left alone. When her mother brags to Auntie Lindo, Jing-mei "determine[s] to put a stop to her foolish pride." She just wants to feel accepted for who she is—not for who she might be. She wants to feel loved for herself, not for the sake of the bragging rights she brings her mother.

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What does Jing-mei want for herself in the story "Two Kinds"? Jing-mei is constantly being asked things of her by her mother. What does she want for herself?

Initally, approval from others (she really wanted to upstage Waverly).  She dreams of others heaping praise on her after her performance.

Another thing she wanted was freedom from her mother's expectations.  After she fails miserably at the talent show, Jing Mei makes it very clear that she does not want to continue with her piano lessons.  She knows that she could never be the piano player her mother wants her to be.  Her mother does realize this but it causes Jing Mei pain now she realizes that her mother will never be proud of her.

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What does the mother want for Jing-mei in "Two Kinds"?

What the mother in this excellent short story wants for her daughter is to make the most of the opportunities that living in a country like the United States gives her. Having escaped from a very desperate and dire situation in China, Jing-Mei's mother loves the potential and the opportunity that living in the United States gives her, as the opening lines of this short story reveal:

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.

What she wants for her daughter is to become a "prodigy," so that she can gain wealth and fame through some undiscovered skill. It is this that causes her to drive Jing-Mei to rehearse and to work hard at her piano practice every day, even though Jing-Mei has no real talent. Her mother is obsessed with the idea that if you work hard enough at something, you can be successful in it. In many ways, she has taken the American Dream and swallowed it whole, ignoring reality. It is of course the conflict between what she wants for her daughter and Jing-Mei's own inability to meet those demands that creates the conflict that governs this story. 

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In "Two Kinds" from The Joy Luck Club, what does Jing Mei's mother need from her?

In the chapter titled “Two Kinds” from Amy Tan’s novel The Joy Luck Club, the mother needs and/or desires various things from her daughter, including the following:

  • She desires Jing-Mei’s total commitment to any goal the mother sets for Jing-Mei.
  • She desires Jing-Mei’s cooperation and/or submission. As she phrases it,

“Only two kinds of daughers . . . . Those who are obedient and those who follow their own mind! Only one kind of daughter can live in this house. Obedient daughter!”

  • She desires to make her own daughter competitive with the daughter of one of her friends.
  • She desires that Jing-Mei learn how to play the piano well enough to become famous and thereby enhance the mother’s social standing.
  • She desires that Jing-Mei will play impressively during her first public concert.

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