Reading report: Two Kinds by Amy Tan

6 June 2016

Two kinds, one of the short stories in The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan, first published in 1989, vividly displays a bittersweet relationship between Jing-mei, the narrator and protagonist, and her mother Mrs. Woo, and explores conflicts between a Chinese mother and her disobedient Americanized daughter. The story happened in the Chinatown in San Francisco throughout the 1950s and maybe the early 1960s.

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It begins with Jing-mei and her mother’s moving to America in 1949. Encouraged by the American Dream and the conventional Chinese parents’ values, Jing-mei’s mother imposed great hopes on her and expects her to become a child prodigy. She tried in all ways to discovery the special talent in Jing-mei. First, she pushed Jing-mei to be the next Shirley Temple,but that didn’t work. Then she prepared intellectual tests which were clipped from popular magazines for Jing-mei everyday. Unfortunately, Jing-mei didn’t show promise in this field, either.

Finally, the mother stumbled upon the answer that Jing-mei must be a piano virtuoso, and forced Jing-mei into piano lessons which taught by Mr. Chong, an elderly piano teacher, who is deaf and whose eyes are too weak to tell when Jing-mei is playing the wrong notes. At the very beginning, Jing-mei believed in her mother that she could be a prodigy. Nevertheless, she did not enjoy the strict ways of her mother latter. As she grown up, she found her self-identity, “I won’t be what I am not”. Then she realized she must reject and rebel her mother. After that, she tried to fail her mother’s expectation in every way and made herself a nonconformist. To her surprised, her mother hit on the conclusion that she would be a pianist, and she was forced to take the piano lessons.

Whereas, Jing-mei thought “And right then, I was determined to put a stop to her foolish pride” Latter, at a recital in the church, Jing-mei failed in her performance which deeply disappointed her mother and made her lost face in front of her friends. Next day, to her astonished, her mother asked her to practice the piano again. This was when she told her mother her real thoughts. She was terribly angry that she told her mom she wished she was dead. We can learn that her mother once had other babies but they died before she left China. Jing-mei’s word deeply hurt her mother and since then her mother completely give up the ideal of making her to be a prodigy.

Many year latter, Jing-mei was shocked when her mother gave her the piano as a thirtieth birthday present. Only after her mother’s death could Jing-mei accept the piano. As she was packing her mother’s things, she sat down to play the piano for the first time in many years and surprisedly to find that “Pleading Child” and “Perfectly Pleasing” were two halves in the same song, which implies that she realize she is a girl with both obedient and rebellion. An analysis of first-person narrative

In accordance to the Wikipedia, the definition of first-person narrative is that, “first person perspective is a mode whereby a story is narrated by one character at a time, speaking for and about themselves. First-person narrative may be singular, plural or multiple as well as being an authoritative, reliable or deceptive “voice” and represents point of view in the writing.”Now let’s look at the effectiveness of the first-person narrative in Two Kinds in the following two aspects. 1. In line of the definition above, we can see, in a first-person narrative, story is reported by a narrator, one of the characters in the story.

The narrator refers to the viewpoint character as “I” (or, when plural, “we”) when he reveals the plots. When we read the story Two Kinds, we find that it is told in first person, as well, by the protagonist, Jing-mei. It is an irrefutable fact that writing in first person can bring great benefits. First and foremost, the first-person point of view will directly narrate the deeply internal, otherwise unspoken thoughts of the narrator, which can push the story closer to the readers and make them forget the plot is well designed as a piece of fiction, and even accept it as a truth. Furthermore, because the audiences tend to accept the narrator as the character, and the same, the character again as a real person, who talks to them face to face, they are more inclined not only to believe in whatever the narrator says, but they also immediately empathize with her.

This story is exclusively from Jing-mei’s perspective for what she thought and did and what took place, where it happened, and how it process, which allows the readers to directly realize the progressing of the plot through her eyes. I contend that this leaves the readers closer to the plot developments, and they are somehow attached to Jing-mei. Therefore they are more easily to feel involved in the story, and resonate with her experience greatly. This might be a valid reason why the novel can win an instant huge success in 1989. 2. Although Jing Mei is too young to know what was her mother’s real thought, she gives a clear description of what her mother said, did, how she did it. Some people might contend that she is such a young character that she can not realize that why her mother did it.

They suppose that all things her mother has done is only want to give the best things for her. Although there are some sound reasons for the opposite, I personally reckon that, Jing-mei is a skillful storyteller. There are four illustrations I take out from the story to support my view. First and foremost, take the the description of her mother’s action,“Up and down, back and forth, quiet and loud” as an example. By the narrative of her in these simple words, we can visualize the vivid scene.

Besides, the dialogue between she and her mother in the climax promote the movement of the plot. Meanwhile these words description clearly reveals the major conflicts in this story, for instance,“ ‘Only two kinds of daughter,’ shouted in Chinese, ‘Those who are obedient and those who follow their own mind! Only one kind of daughter can live in this house. Obedient daughter!’ ” Apart from this, Jing-mei’s reply to her mother, such as,“I wish I wasn’t your daughter. I wish you weren’t my mother”, “Then I wish I’d never been born! ”, “I wish I were dead! Like them” , also conveys a tension that facilitate the plot go toward the climax.

From this part of narration, we can learn the reasons why her mother be so strict on her and her impetuously rebellion to her mother, which immediately established a link between the rising action part to the climax and then the climax to the falling action. Since Jing-mei’s words hurt her mother deeply that she eventually give up her stubborn idea and then the story goes to the end.

Additionally, Jing-mei confessed that she never did anything the best she could be for so many years, except to spite her mother. In her deep inside, she is proud when mother told her the piano is hers and she should take it. Eventually, the story comes ends with she realization that she was actually both a obedient and rebellion girl. Jing-mei’s experience makes the readers reflect on their own lives and relationships with their own parents. She constructs the story in this way–the first point of view, that makes the plot flow, and successfully attracts the readers’ curiosity in what would happen to her next. From what I have shown above, we can see story writing in first person narrative has great naturalness and persuasiveness
and we can benefits a lot when we write something in the first perspective.

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