Comparison Of Two Kinds And By The Waters Of Babylon

Two Kinds by Amy Tan and By the Waters of Babylon by Stephen Vincent Benet are two short stories that tell a journey of one person throughout an essential stage in their life. These journeys, however, are not all that similar but connect by their mindset throughout the story.    

Two Kinds, we follow Jing-mei, as she moved with her Chinese mother who lost everyone when she moved, including 2 of her daughters. It follows the path of Jing-mei being a prodigy in different areas, but by the selection of her mother. Nevertheless, as soon as she places her skill on display, she is reminded by the audience that she “is not a prodigy” and insults her mom as she wishes she was like “them” in regard to her dead sisters. While By the Waters of Babylon tracks the story of John. John, who narrates his quest, becomes a priest and is told that he should not travel east. On his way to travel east, he sees that what he has been told has been full of lies.   

As stated before, these stories are not as similar but share specific attributes and fundamental values, including independence. In both stories, we see the main character take actions that are upon themselves but still take influence from their parents. Jing-mei decided to insult her mother and not be influenced by the options her mother gave. John decides to travel east even though he might be in significant danger if he does proceed with his actions. Subsequently, like in real life, humans always go back to their roots. In both stories, we see the main characters either reflect or come upon their parents, whether that is Jing-mei reflecting on her mother after she died or John asking his dad to personally kill him after he passes the boundaries he was told.    

As all things are, both stories have very different themes and conflicts. With Jing-mei, conflicts arise with her mother, which helps the story unfold after the failed display of her piano skills. As the story progresses before and after the climax, it is clear how unwilling she is with her mother to try new things. Additionally, she deals with the stereotypes of 'new beginnings,' as moving to a new home means better opportunities. Not living up to them can ruin not just your being, but the perception of others.    

On the other hand, John deals with a 'coming-of-age' journey. His journey is involved in the full story, as he learns values his dad thought him and takes his journey. His quest leads him to pursue more knowledge, as there would be no end to this group of lies that have been told. And as he rightfully believes, he tells his dad to kill him, but his dad denies and says that as time goes on, the rules can be bent. His father's reasoning teaches him that he can explore the curious side of his mind, but with his restrictions.    

As humans mature, it is only right that their parents understand the independence and freedom they can give their children. In my personal experience, I relate more to John’s solution in his story instead of Jing-mei’s solution. I say this because I would take a more passive approach to my parents instead of releasing all my anger at once. The relation it brings to me is the fact that both of us are curious and on the mindset of “learning something new every day.” Our curiosity can take us places, but when looking at the consequences, we always wonder whether it is worth it. Moreover, if we feel like we did it wrong, we say it straight up, forgetting about the consequences and letting our dignity get the best of us. I believe John took the conflict a lot more logically, as he uses reason to see the truth behind everything.    

In conclusion, both stories bring a different journey for the character, but all in all, the stories have similarities and differences. By the Waters of Babylon teaches you not to believe everything that is told to you and that curiosity can lead to discoveries. Two Kinds shows that one small thing can ruin someone’s life and that some things are just easier to let go. Both stories bring themes that are both true and wise, as in the real world, you can be skeptical about things, but with the right words, that can change. 

16 December 2021
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