Human Oppressiveness In Two Kinds And A&P

2492 words - 10 pages

It was Emerson who said it best, “For nonconformity, the world whips you with its displeasure” (Porter 1155). With a detailed look of Amy Tan’s “Two Kinds” and John Updike’s “A&P,” you will find that this quote is entirely applicable in the context of oppressiveness and in the likeness of “coming of age.” These two stories document the different perspectives of two characters’ growing up and how the role of the invisible hand of oppression guides developing adolescents into mature adults; without prejudice or even forethought. The characters in question are: Sammy, an A&P store clerk whose time spent at work reveals how oppressed by society he is, and Jing-Mei, whose life and every move is dictated by the iron fist of her high-expectations Asian mother. In comparing these stories, you will find how two characters, with very different lives, are essentially affected by the same forces of humanity.
In analyzing these two stories, it is first notable to mention how differing their experiences truly are. Sammy is a late adolescent store clerk who, in his first job, is discontent with the normal workings of society and the bureaucratic nature of the store at which he works. He feels oppressed by the very fabric and nature of aging, out-of date rules, and, at the end of this story, climaxes with exposing his true feelings and quits his jobs in a display of nonconformity and rebellion. Jing-Mei, on the other hand, is a younger Asian American whose life and every waking moment is guided by the pressures of her mother, whose idealistic word-view aids in trying to mold her into something decent by both the double standards Asian society and their newly acquired American culture. In contrasting these two perspectives, we see that while our characters have had differing experiences, they both, at the end, have been guided by their societal structure (e.g. “oppressive force”) as a whole.
In the biographical essay “Amy Tan” by Karen Stein, she mentions how Tan’s parents pressured her to be both medical physician and pianist. She grew up around California, moving frequently. At fifteen, Amy’s father passed away. This was when her mother, Daisy, took her children to Switzerland and enrolled them in school there, only to return again to California in the late 1960’s. Despite her parent’s wishes, and her mother’s pressure; Tan eventually switched her life course when she changed her majors in college to English and Linguistics (2). As a now successful American novelist, Tan has wrote such stores as the popular Joy Luck Club, a collection of stories involving many Asian-American characters involved in a Mahjong club and the trials and tribulations they face as Old-world American immigrants. Tan, today, is considered and important voice among the groups of “hyphenated Americans.” (Stein 3) “Two Kinds,” in fact, was one of the stories in the short series. As a reflection of her own past, “Two Kinds” itself was largely a piece of Tan’s history written in...

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