Discussion Topic

The talent show performance and preparation of the narrator in "Two Kinds."

Summary:

In "Two Kinds," Jing-mei's talent show performance was a disaster due to her lack of preparation and belief in her supposed prodigy status. Despite not learning the piece well and daydreaming during practice, she felt confident until she hit numerous wrong notes. Her mother's disappointment and the audience's whispers devastated Jing-mei, leading to a significant conflict between her and her mother.

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What happens during the narrator's talent show performance in "Two Kinds"?

When the narrator, Jing-mei, performed at a local talent show, it became incredibly clear that she had not really learned the piece. As an adult, she admits, "I never really listened to what I was playing. I daydreamed about being somewhere else, about being someone else." The crowd is full of her mother's and father's friends, all of whom her mother proudly invited, as well as the children of those friends; so many people, and yet Jing-mei "had no fear whatsoever." She did not feel nervous at all. She really seemed to believe that there was a "prodigy" inside of her, as her mother had insisted, and she reveled in the beauty of her dress and her big pink bow. However, once she began to hit wrong notes, she just could not stop, and the piece ended on "sour notes." Although her deaf piano teacher is pleased with her performance, Jing-mei's mother's face is "stricken" and she hears whispers from the audience on her way back to her seat. To her, it felt as if the "whole world" had watched her fail, and she "felt the same of [her] mother and father" as they continued to sit proudly through the remainder of the talent show. In the end, Jing-mei was "devastated" by her mother's expression, "a quiet, blank look that said she had lost everything." And Jing-mei, too, felt this way. She happily assumed that this would be the end of her career at the piano, but her mother still expected her to practice each day, and this resulted in the terrible fight between mother and daughter.

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What happens when the narrator performs for the talent show in "Two Kinds"?

Jing-Mei's performance in the talent show is an unmitigated disaster. To be fair to Jing-Mei, she never really wanted any of this in the first place; it was her ambitious mother who pushed her into being a child prodigy.

Nevertheless, she at least hoped that she'd give a good account of herself at the piano. Unfortunately, she doesn't. Whether it's due to nerves or to the second-rate teaching of her deaf piano tutor, Jing-Mei makes a complete hash of her performance of the deceptively difficult piece "Pleading Child" by Robert Schumann.

One clunking wrong note after another emanates from the piano as Jing-Mei struggles to play this notoriously demanding piece. By the end of her performance, Jing-Mei is thoroughly overcome by embarrassment, so much so that she actually feels quite faint.

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In "Two Kinds," how does the narrator prepare for the talent show?

After the narrator's mother and her piano teacher, Old Chong, decide to enter her in a talent show, she is instructed to begin work on a Schumann piece. But by her own description, she

dawdled over it, playing a few bars and then cheating, looking up to see what notes followed.

Instead of working to master playing the work, the narrator practices an elaborate curtsy that she will execute at the end of her performance. As she sits down to play the piece in the show, she is thinking about her clothes and hair and how people will applaud for her. Her lack of preparation for the actual playing demonstrates that the piano lessons were not really her passion, and her passive aggression in not practicing the piece prior to her performance is her way of expressing her rebellious feelings toward her mother.

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In "Two Kinds," how does the narrator prepare for the talent show?

The narrator prepares for the talent show with her teacher, Old Chong, who is deaf. She is supposed to play a song called "Pleading Child" by Schumann. Instead of memorizing the entire piece, she just plays a few bars and then daydreams. She never learns the whole piece. Mostly what she does to practice is curtsy in an elaborate way and smile to prepare for the talent show. Though she is very excited about the show, she plays a series of wrong notes because she has not practiced thoroughly and is not prepared for the talent show. After the show, she decides not to play piano anymore because she is not a prodigy, and she doesn't realize that practice is what makes someone good at playing the piano. 

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In "Two Kinds," how does the narrator prepare for the talent show?

The short story "Two Kinds" by Amy Tan tells of Jing-mei the narrator of the tale, who cannot seem to live up to her mother's high expectations. Her mother considers her a genius and wants her to manifest it in some way, while the narrator rebels against her mother's strictness and discipline. First, her mother takes her to get a haircut like Shirley Temple, but it ends up looking short and boyish. Her mother then has her practice all sorts of outlandish things, such as reciting the capitals of countries, doing math in her head, and standing on her head without using her hands. Finally, her mother settles on Jing-mei learning to play the piano.

As a piano teacher, her mother hires a resident of the same apartment building named Mr. Chong, whom Jing-mei nicknames Old Chong. He is indeed old and has become deaf and visually impaired. Jing-mei discovers that she can make all sorts of mistakes and Old Chong can't tell the difference, so she doesn't even try to learn the piano properly.

By the time Old Chong and her mother decide that the narrator should enter the talent show being held in the church hall, a piano has been installed in her own living room. However, Jing-mei never attempts to learn to properly play the piece she is supposed to present at the recital.

It was a simple, moody piece that sounded more difficult than it was. I was supposed to memorize the whole thing. But I dawdled over it, playing a few bars and then cheating, looking up to see what notes followed. I never really listened to what I was playing. I daydreamed about being somewhere else, about being someone else.

The only part of the talent show that Jing-mei practices with sincerity and diligence is the curtsy she is supposed to give after her performance. She plays disastrously, of course, profoundly disappointing her mother. Still, two days later, her mother wants her to resume piano practice. Jing-mei rebels and never practices again. Years later, shortly after her mother dies, she has the old piano, which still sits in her father's living room, tuned, and plays the selection she had attempted at the talent show.

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In Two Kinds, how does Jing-Mei prepare for the talent show?

Jing-Mei Woo (who has the nickname of "June") prepares for the talent show by taking piano lessons from the deaf Mrs. Chong (who is a retired piano teacher).  Therefore, although June does prepare for the talent show, she certainly does not prepare well. Instead, June puts her hope in the idea that she is truly a "prodigy" and does not need too much practice.  It is June's mother who is most looking forward to the performance so that her daughter can show her great talent to the Joy Luck Club.  June has been told so often that she is a prodigy she "almost" believes it as the talent show begins.  Unfortunately, she gives a poor performance of Schumann's piece called "Pleading Child."  Only Mrs. Chong applauds for June.  Of course, June is not really a prodigy; therefore, her talent was not enough to impress June's mother and her friends.

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