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Jing-mei's portrayal, identity, role in society, occupation as an adult, and self-discovery in "Two Kinds"


In "Two Kinds," Jing-mei is portrayed as a young Chinese-American girl struggling with her identity and her mother's expectations. Her role in society involves navigating cultural pressures while seeking personal fulfillment. As an adult, Jing-mei becomes a freelance writer, reflecting her journey of self-discovery and her ultimate acceptance of her own desires and identity, distinct from her mother's ambitions for her.

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How is the character Jing Mei portrayed in "Two Kinds"?

Jing-mei is the first-person objective narrator of this story. This means that she is a participant in the events that take place and that she is narrating these events after they have occurred. She is now an adult looking back on a period of her childhood. She is, in many ways, a reliable narrator, and so she seems to characterize her childhood self fairly honestly.

For the most part, Jing-mei uses indirect characterization to paint a picture of herself at the age of nine. In other words, she doesn't name her various qualities but, rather, tells stories that illuminate those qualities for the reader. Her innocence, for example, when she gets excited about her mother's idea that she is a prodigy just waiting to have her genius discovered, is palpable. She imagines herself as a "dainty ballerina girl," the "Christ child," and "Cinderella." She says that she was "filled with a sense that [she] would soon become perfect."

Evidently, she has felt quite imperfect, and she longs to be "beyond reproach," never feeling the need to "sulk" or "clamor for anything" anymore. She also says that "something inside [her] began to die" when she saw her mother's disappointment over and over when Jing-mei failed to prove her genius in yet another way. She feels badly about herself and begins to grow resentful toward her mother for inadvertently making her feel this way. For this reason, she begins to become defiant and rebellious, leading to the fight that would put an end to her mother's attempts to discover her genius.

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What is Jing-mei's identity and her role in society in "Two Kinds"?

Jing-mei's identity is one of a typical young girl who wants to live her life and have fun.  However, it is tainted by the fact that her mother wants her to be a prodigy.  Her mother is always forcing Jing-mei to try new things to discover if this thing or that thing is what Jing-mei is extremely talented at so she can flaunt her daughter's success.  This is mostly due to the competition Jing-mei's mother and her sister have.  Jing-mei's cousin has already discovered her talent and Jing-mei's aunt and cousin never let anyone forget it.

Jing-mei's mother tells her that there are two kinds of daughters--those who obey and those who do not.  When Jing-mei refuses to continue practicing her piano after the disastrous recital where she embarrasses herself and the entire family (and where the aunt and cousin gloat at Jing-mei's failure), we know which category of daughter Jing-mei has fallen into.

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What is Jing-Mei's occupation as an adult in "Two Kinds"?

In "Two Kinds," Jing-Mei Woo never says what she does for work. When she is listing off the ways in which she has disappointed her mother, though, she does mention that she was not accepted to Stanford like her mother wanted her to be; in fact, Jing-Mei ultimately decides to drop out of college without graduating. Jing-Mei goes on to work as a copywriter, and seems content with the fairly simple lifestyle she leads.

Throughout the course of The Joy Luck Club, of which "Two Kinds" is a chapter, Jing-Mei learns more about the sacrifices her mother made to come to the United States. Suyuan gave up her entire life, including her twin daughters, to try to have a better life in the United States for herself and any future children she had. This realization ultimately makes Jing-Mei more appreciative of her mother and helps her understand why some of her decisions were so disappointing to Suyuan.

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What does Jing-mei discover about herself in "Two Kinds"?

"Two Kinds" is a story about Jing-mei discovering her inner strength and desires. The story begins with Jing-mei telling readers that her mother, Suyuan, believed that a person could be anything in America. Unfortunately, Suyuan's American dream is incredibly predictable. In her mind, success is fame and fortune, and she believes that Jing-mei can be the ticket to just that. Suyuan believes that Jing-mei can will herself to become a child prodigy, and for a time, Jing-mei believes it, too, and works hard to mold herself into what Suyuan desires.

But Jing-mei is unable to take on the prodigy mantle, and Suyuan is repeatedly disappointed. Jing-mei arrives at a point where she can no longer stand her mother's look of disappointment, so her solution is to not even try anymore. This is the moment of self-discovery because Jing-mei realizes that she does have the abilities of a prodigy—just not the same abilities her mother wanted her to have. Instead, Jing-mei realizes that she has vast amounts of inner willpower and the ability to stand up for what she believes in.

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.

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