"Two Kinds" by Amy Tan is about the intricacies and complexities in the relationship between a mother and daughter. Throughout the story, the mother imposes upon her daughter, Jing Mei, her hopes and dreams for her. Jing Mei chooses not what her mother wants of her but only what she wants for herself. She states, "For, unlike my mother, I did not believe I could be anything I wanted to be. I could be only me" (Tan 1). Thus this "battle of wills" between mother and daughter sets the conflict of the story.
The theme seems to be about how the expectations of a parent can lead to resentment from the child when the child fails to meet those expectations. The theme is partially set in the opening paragraph with the statement, "My mother believed you could be anything you wanted to be in America" (Tan 1), and again in the second paragraph, when the mother tells the daughter, "Of course you can be prodigy, too" (Tan1). Throughout the story, the mother constantly insists on making of Jing Mei a child prodigy. In the beginning, Jing Mei is excited about the possibility. She even likens herself to Jesus saying, "I was like the Christ child lifted out of the straw manger, crying with holy indignity" (Tan 1). When Jing Mei realizes she isn’t succeeding, she loses hope and so chooses not to succeed. In this she resents her mother for constantly trying to make of her something she is not.
The story is told in the first-person narrative, or subjective point of view. This is important as it leads the reader to sympathize with the narrator as well as setting up the protagonist/antagonist relationship of daughter and mother. In this case, Jing Mei narrates as an adult but through the eyes of a child, allowing the reader to draw upon his/her own memories of childhood to further relate. Ironically, this approach can also lead the reader to sympathize with the mother as well, if one relates to the story as a parent. At the end of the story, Jing Mei switches her narration from that of a child to that of the adult allowing the reader to see the "adult" perspective on her life. No longer is the relationship between Jing Mei and her mother antagonistic. With the offering of the piano, the mother tells her, "You have natural talent. You could have been genius if you want to" (Tan 1). Jing Mei states that she couldn’t. Then her mother states, "You just not trying" (Tan 1). Her mother bore her no anger or sadness when she made these statements and Jing Mei gave no argument in return.
For the majority of the story, the characters remain static and flat. There is no growth of the characters as they remain locked in their "battle of wills." This type of characterization makes the reader focus more on the theme rather than on the individuals...