The intention of Amy Tan in the story Two Kinds was to present her problem through her personal experience and leave the judgment to the reader. Though the narrator’s mother experiences tragedies in her life, she has the energy to forge on and impart her dreams into her daughter.
Although the narrator is unable to fulfill her mother’s expectations, the aspect of maintaining two diverse cultures especially as an immigrant is almost unachievable to many but she succeeds. The title Two Kinds refers to different types people in the society. In real life, there are people who are always determined to achieve a certain goal in life, and there are those who do not have such ambitions. For instance, with her mother’s inspiration, the narrator’s dynamicity enables her to change her goals from being a Chinese Shirley Temple to a pianist. As the story opens, the narrator says, “My mother believed you could be anything you wanted to be in America” (Tan, 1989, p. 405), while in the last paragraph she realizes how it is easy to play the piano yet she had failed earlier. Therefore, through the reconnection of the paragraphs, the author enables the reader to conclude that the narrator could be famous if she had followed her mother’s advice.
Furthermore, the author’s description of the Chinese mother’s suffering excludes her personal feelings. Due to the strained relationship with her mother, the author’s feelings to her mother’s suffering might be real and thus an effective technique in using first person narration. On the other hand, if another person retells the story he/she will explicitly describe the mother’s suffering while sympathizing with her.
Amy’s piano is the major symbol in the story. Although she had earlier turned it down, she eventually appreciates and plays it after the death of her mother. In this context, the piano symbolizes the care or love, which never existed between the mother and her daughter, the kid.
Nevertheless, after playing the piano in her adulthood, Amy realizes the love she had for her mother especially through her childhood songs. Through her mother’s death, the narrator starts to appreciate the Chinese culture because she treasures all the Chinese clothes/jewels her mother had; she actually keeps them away safely. Moreover, the author realizes she belongs to the two cultures and easily plays the piano, which had been a problem during childhood. She learns the power of appreciation and hard work immediately after her mother’s death. Finally, the narrator’s ability to play piano in adulthood shows that her childhood failure was due to her poor attitude towards her mother.
Personally, the aspect of a person maintaining his/her culture away from home is not easy. American lifestyle, food, religion, and language differ greatly from the Chinese culture. When my cousin migrated to America in the early 1990s, he had to learn English and accept the American lifestyle, which differs greatly from the Arabic culture he was accustomed. Though he had a hard time, flexibility, and dynamicity are some of the qualities that made him adapt to the new environment. Finally, the author’s experience encourages all the immigrants especially in America to maintain their culture. Though not easy through literature, she encourages the immigrants to embrace their culture, which seems to be a problem for all minor races living in the United States. In summary, because of disobedience, the narrator is unable to live to her mother’s expectation but when she becomes an adult, she learns to appreciate/love her mother and the Chinese culture. Through her literary ideas, the author calls for dynamicity in all immigrants in the world.
Tan, A. (1989). Two Kinds. In J.
E. Gardner, B. Lawn, J. Ridl, & P.
Schakel, Literature: A Portable Anthology, (pp. 405-414). Boston, New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s.