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Amy Tan - Two Kinds

Essay by   •  November 6, 2010  •  Essay  •  1,298 Words (6 Pages)  •  2,105 Views

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Amy Tan's "Two Kinds" is an autobiographical look into her childhood that shows the conflict between Tan and her mother, the difference between old and new cultures, the past and the present, and parents' expectations vs. reality. Couples of opposing elements comprise the basis of the entire story; to another extent even the title itself, "Two Kinds," shows the friction that Tan creates. The strongest argument that Tan suggest is that this may not only be a look into her own life, rather it may be the struggles that every child and parent goes through as they come into age. As the story advances, Tan's journey of struggle through the relationship with her overbearing mother is unraveled. A sense of emotional growth and mutual respect can be noted between Tan and her mother as the story moves on. A strong examination of "Two Kinds" defends this theory.

"Two Kinds" takes place in San Francisco during the 1950's when a large immigration movement was taking place. Tan begins the story by taking the role of the innocent child that all readers can relate with. You can see a mental picture of Tan's mother poking and repeating the Chinese words "Ni-Kan, You Watch!" We immediately feel attached and sorry for Tan, being the daughter of an unruly mother. Tan wrote what many of us felt growing up with overbearing parents who expected the world out of us, when we just wanted to go outside and play with the other kids. In a sense we were mentally attached with Tan as she is compared to child actors who she cannot possible compete with. Tan feels as though her mother doesn't take her own opinions and worries to heart, rather she feels her mother is only concerned about Tan becoming famous so that her mother will be better off. These strong emotions that we feel from Tan also spark something inside most readers to immediately jump on the side of Tan rather than see past these disguised attempts of motivation. Later on in "Two Kinds" Tan's mother comments on her rugged hair, saying that she "look like Negro-Chinese." Tan's emotions come out as she says to herself "as if I did this on purpose." This small line in the story makes a large impact as we can see in our minds a mother dragging her child into the bathroom washing her hair out and yelling at her for something that the child could not control. In a sense, Tan is almost pulling out our sensitive sides, and making the readers shed a tear for the rough life she has grown through. Tan is constantly beating herself up and taking the blame for things that she could not control and one point she looks herself in the mirror and states that "it would always be this ordinary face - I began to cry. Such a sad, ugly girl! I made high - pitched noises like a crazed animal, trying to scratch out the face in the mirror." Tan expresses these emotions, as she is upset with not being as good as her mother is expecting. Her mother makes her feel as if she is not as good as she should be, though this strong attack maybe as simple as a failed attempt of Tan's mother trying to make her realize that she is not fulfilling her own potential.

The most important parts of the story come in regards to the piano lessons that Tan is "forced" into taking. During the course of the piano lessons Tan and her mother unleash their vented emotions in a strong exchange

"Why don't you like me the way I am?" I cried. "I'm not a genius! I can't play the piano. 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! So ungrateful,"

This strong exchange is large basis for argument of the misinterpreted attempts of each character. Tan herself is only trying to be do her best as her mother wants, even though her mother thinks that she is not trying as much as she really can.

The next large change in emotions is when Tan decides not to care as much because she understands that if her teacher doesn't notice slight errors in her playing then her own mother will not notice these errors either. By behaving this way Tan sees that her mother is not even aware of her shoddy piano playing, so Tan's mother begins to brag to her friends of her daughter's apparent remarkable playing skills.

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