A Theme Of Conflicting Values And Perceptions In Two Kinds
In life, it is natural for parents to want the best in life for their children. Therefore, most of the parents commit their lives and resources to ensure that their children live better lives not to mention realize their life-long dreams. On most occasions, the parents have already defined paths that they recommend to their children. However, it is not always that the parents’ desires, perspectives, and values agree with those of their children. Although most of the parents overlook the differences by allowing their children to pursue their passions, other parents /guardians consider opposition to their ideas and reluctance of the children in agreeing with their views as a form of rebellion. Amy Tan’s story “Two Kinds,” provides a detailed illustration of some of the conflicts between parents and their children, especially regarding future plans and values. By capitalizing on the mother-daughter relationship, Amy creates a vivid image of their union while at the same time illustrating and supporting the theme of conflicting values between parents and children.
To begin, the title of the story “Two Kinds,” represents the central theme of conflicting values and perceptions between Suyuan and Jing-Mei. Having endured difficult years of poverty and struggle in China, Suyuan is determined to realize the “American dream” through her daughter. In her perceptions, she believes that the best way that her daughter can succeed living is by choosing “lucrative” ventures that will earn her wealth and better living, “My mother believed you could be anything you wanted to be in America. You could open a restaurant. You could work for the government and get good retirement. You could buy a house with almost no money down. You could become rich. You could become instantly famous”. Suyuan's perception of life is that it requires sacrifice and dedication. The difference in perception with her daughter is founded on the fact that Jing-Mei has not experienced the struggle as her mother. Therefore, through the analysis, it is easy for the reader to understand the title is structured to reinforce the main theme of the story that is the difference in values and perceptions between parents and their children.
The belief by Jing-Mei that children must follow their parents’ advice irrespective of whether the instructions are against their wishes and abilities further illustrates the differences in perceptions and values between parents and their children. In the story, Suyuan is depicted as a representation of an older generation. Her insistence that her daughter Jing-Mei should not oppose her counsel and should follow her advice blindly seems to be the norm and value that has been in her background. Having grown up in struggle and poverty in China, Suyuan is convinced the success of her daughter is primarily determined by her daughter’s ability to follow her counsel. On the contrary, Jing-Mei believes that she reserves the right to make her decisions and pursue her passions, interests, and life-long plans. According to Jing-Mei, she should be allowed to create her own path and explore her passions irrespective of the issues that have shaped her status and position as a child in the United States. Although Suyuan is determined to instill and force values upon her daughter, it is impossible to change her daughter’s perceptions and values. Jing-Mei cannot relate to her mother because she was brought up in a different society and setting. The differences in opinions and perceptions between Jing-Mei and Suyuan further support the main theme of the text.
Jing-Mei’s character traits and attitude as a contented individual are by far different from her mother. After successfully gaining entry in the United States, Suyuan is convinced that the only important endeavor that should be explored is the attainment of wealth and stability. As a result of her conviction, she is determined to invest time and effort in the discovery of her daughter’s hidden talent. For years, Suyuan forces her daughter to take piano lessons despite her lack of interest and passion. The insistence in taking the piano lessons and the desire for her daughter to become a star implies that Suyuan’s attitude is common in her generation, as her peers and close friends like to boast to each other about the success and talents of their children. Unlike her mother, Jing-Mei is contented and does not entertain the idea of piano training. 'Why don't you like me the way I am? I'm not a genius! I can't play the piano. And even if I could, I wouldn't go on TV if you paid me a million dollars!' I cried’. In the excerpt, Jing-Mei is devastated by the thought of taking the piano classes. She believes that her mother’s obsession with making her a prodigy is unnecessary considering that she has no talent. A review of the interests, character traits and attitudes of Suyuan and Jing-Mei reveals Amy Tan’s desire to bring out how differences in perceptions and values between children and their mother can sabotage family unions and cause bad blood.
In summation, Amy Tan’s story, “Two Kinds,” explores a wide range of themes and issues that are common in mother-daughter relationships. However, the theme of the differences in perceptions and values between mother and daughter is emphasized in the story. By illustrating how the differences rob the family comfort and happiness despite them establishing a life in the United States away from the struggle in China, Amy Tan indulges the reader in an interesting narration. In that regard, this helps the audience understand the dynamics of families and the need for parents and their children to accommodate each other differences and pursue happiness and contentment in life.
- Tan, Amy. The Joy Luck Club. Penguin, 2006.