A Literary Analysis of Two Kinds by Amy Tan


The title of this short story “Two Kinds” describes the theme of this story. The mother had stated that there are only two types of daughters. “Those who are obedient and those who follow their own mind. ” (pg 412) Jing Mei did not understand the truth or meaning behind that declaration until after her mother’s death. Jing Mei realized that her mother only meant that she could be an obedient child by listening to her mother while at the same time follow her own heart and want her own prodigy in life. The last paragraph in this story also indicates the theme of two halves being equal to one.

The two songs “perfectly contented” and “pleading child” was actually two halves of one song. Despite Jing Mei and her mother’s differences they were like the songs, they may disagree but made one stunning song. Her mother only wanted her to use the capability she knew she had.

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Amy’s story tells me that she regrets not trying to do her best and how she had taken her mother for granted.

Setting and Characters

Jing Mei’s mother believed that you could be anything you wanted to be in America. (p 405) America is where all Jing Mei’s mothers hope lay.She had come to America in 1949 after losing everything in china.

The main character of the story is Jing Mei (Amy Tan) who is also the protagonist in the story. Her mother is the antagonist, who is always urging Jing Mei to try new things and discover new talents. Jing Mei feels as if her mother wants her to be something she is not. Other characters in the story are Lindo Jong (known as Auntie Lindo) and her daughter Waverly Jong who is about Jing Mei’s age. Through out the story there is constant competition between Jing’s mother and Auntie Lindo with the daughters.There is also Jing Mei’s piano instructor, “Old Chong”, who she takes advantage of. Jing Mei’s father is also mentioned in the story but does not have as much of a part.

It appears that Amy Tan created a story based on a relationship between mother daughter dynamics. Jing Mei is a nine year old daughter that has potential, who at the beginning of the story was ‘even as excited as her mother to find the right prodigy. ’ Jing Mei hated the raised hopes and failed expectations. When she looked herself in the mirror (pg 407) she saw just an ordinary face and began to cry.She then saw what seemed to be the prodigy side of her self. She saw an angry powerful girl that only wanted to use that energy to resist her mother hopes for her. Through out the story Jing Mei seems to be a complicated character having many inner and outer conflicts.

The mother comes across as being controlling and constant on push her daughter to become famous.

Plot Development

Early in childhood Jing Mei dreamed of finding her prodigy and being a famous Chinese American, mostly because of the views and actions her mother placed on her. Her mother believed you could be anything you wanted to be in America. pg 405) Her mother was always pushing new tests and talents on Jing Mei. She even went as far as having her daughter Jing Mei models her physical appearance and actions after a child-star Shirley Temple. Her other was always testing her with many different things trying to discover Jing Mei’s talent. Later Jing Mei started to feel like her mother was just trying to make her into someone she was not and started to just fail and not try to do anything right hoping her mother would give up.

When her mother died she had realized what her mother had been trying to do. Her mother had only wanted her to do her best.She had then to realize what her mother had meant when she said are only two types of daughters, obedient daughters and daughter who follow their own mind. She knew her mother just wanted her to listen to her authority and try to do the best she could at everything making the best for her life and her dreams. The title two kinds explain in detail a lot about the story itself. Two kinds of daughters and at the end Jing Mei plays two different song learning that it is two halves to one. This story shows that Jing Mei and her mother had disagreed about many things but in the end Jing Mei learns what it all really means.


In this story by Amy Tan the piano was one of the main symbols of the story. Through out the story when Jing Mei’s mother had her taking lessons she slacked off and did not even try to do her best. At the end of the story she had the piano reconditioned and tuned (p 413) for sentimental reasons which shows that Amy really did care about her mother and the piano. I also find that the two songs that she plays at the end are also symbols of the story. She plays two songs the first being “Pleading Child”, and the second one: “Perfectly Contented”.The song “Pleading Child” is one of the songs her mother had her play as a child. At the end of the story she noticed the second song on the right hand side for the first time or so it seemed and tried to play it as well as the first.

(pg 414) “Pleading child” was shorter but slower; “Perfectly Contented” was longer but faster. It was not until then that she realized that these two songs were actually two halves of the same song. These songs seemed to represent her life and the meaning behind her and her mothers attitudes and relationship with one another.

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