Free Essay Sample: Theme of Tradition in the Fiction "Two Kinds."

Published: 2024-01-04
Free Essay Sample: Theme of Tradition in the Fiction "Two Kinds."
Essay type:  Analytical essays
Categories:  Culture Literature American literature
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1263 words
11 min read

“Two Kinds” is a fiction story authored by Tan Amy. The narrative depicts a complicated relationship between a girl called Jing-Mei and her mother. In essence, Tan’s focus is on Jing-Mei’s mother, who lives in America, but was born and raised in China before the Marxist revolution. As a result, she has abandoned their local traditions for many years, and her American-born daughter negotiates the challenges of embracing their Chinese lineage and American prospect for prosperity. In the story, the narrator refuses to go by her mother’s overbearing wish of shaping her into a musical prodigy for the sake of competing with her ally’s daughter (Tan). Furthermore, Jing-Mei, remembers the happenings of these events, which occurred more than two decades ago, and still, she finds it difficult to realize her mother’s incentives.

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Throughout the story, the narrator and her mother conflict because of identity issues; her mother tries to fit into the American culture, thus forcing her daughter into it. More so, her mother is of the notion that; in America, anyone can become what they want to be (Asharudin). This particular struggle makes the mother persuade her daughter to try hard to become a musical prodigy. However, this is against Jing-Mei's wishes because she is not interested in music, but her mother desires to show off to Linda Jong, her friend, whose daughter is a chess champion. Jing-Mei's mother enrolls her in a piano lesson; this idea comes from television and magazines that depict the American culture but not their Chinese tradition. At some point, Jing-Mei and her mother are watching Shirley Temple’s movie, and the mother tries to imagine Jing-Mei as a star. This is proof that her mother is lost in foreign traditions because she is against the reality that her daughter is neither interested nor talented in music.

Even though Jing-Mei is not interested in her parent’s wish to mold her into an icon (a musical prodigy), she goes on and styles her hair the same way Temple had styled hers to please her mother. Consequently, this is not part of their Chinese tradition, but American culture. More so, Jing-Mei’s mother reads many remarkable children’s narratives in magazines, and she takes them home from where she works. Generally, Jing-Mei's mother has forsaken her culture and traditions, and she is in pursuit of the 'American Dream". This pursuit makes her mother develop expectations that burden her daughter heavily (Souris).

In this story, the writer (Amy Tan) used a memoir to make the reader's point of view transition from childhood to adulthood. Amy Tan tries to narrate the events through the adult's experienced eyes and the child's innocent view. By doing this, he gives readers a chance to make personal judgments in their own ways; and include their perceptions of mother-daughter conflicts of interest (Souris). In this case, Jing-Mei is young and innocent. She undergoes the struggle of becoming what her mother wants her to be, simply because her mother is in pursuit of a foreign culture ‘The American Dream”. Generally, the writer used a memoir as a literary device to invite the reader's reflection on the way memory itself works; in this case, a memoir helps the readers relate Jing-Mei's circumstances and help them make sense of their current situations. Moreover, it allows readers with strong Chinese ties to relate to their conventional oral forms, which can help them mold their stories and conceal their pressure, with the sincerity of transmitting the fading traditions from their lives to their children.

The theme of Family in the Fiction "Two Kinds."

The narrative revolves around a mother and her daughter - Jing-Mei. At the beginning of the story, the narrator’s mother sacrifices everything to move to the United States of America. Understandably, she does all these as a mother who wants the best for her daughter. By moving to the US, Jing-Mei’s mother expected her to take advantage of opportunities in the foreign country, which causes a rift between her wishes and her parent’s desires, resulting in divergence and bitterness.

Furthermore, the writer uses allegory by creating other stories from the main story. For instance, the writer narrates many stories that depict the theme of conflict between mother and daughter. Besides, a story within a story is depicted when Jing-Mei faces a personal conflict as she tries to choose between American culture and Chinese heritage. The writer also uses "talk story " as a literary device to demonstrate how mothers used to share their experiences just as it is done in the Chinese folk tradition. He employs this innovative and specific strategy because American girls like Jing-Mei use personal narratives to narrate their stories.

Parental expectations are normal in families, as in the case of Jing-Mei and her mother. The writer uses allusions to describe the selfish expectations of Jing-Mei’s mother. For instance, she expects her daughter to be like Shirley Temple. Even though the story does not give enough detail about Shirley Temple, the writer has created several illusions about Shirley. The writer used Shirley Temple as a focal point for the conflict between Jing-Mei’s aspirations and her mother’s expectations for her to be a music star. Generally, her mother, who is so controlling, wants her daughter to be an American icon but should still embrace her Chinese heritage.

The story “Two Kinds” is a perfect demonstration of how a family can stifle personal growth, more so due to the conflict between parental expectations and children’s desires. At the story’s beginning, Jing-Mei is motivated by her mother that she can become anything she wishes in America. However, her mother does the contrary and decides what she wants her daughter to become. Throughout the story, several cultural and generational gap aspects separate Jing-Mei from her mother (Hoyte). These aspects act as hindrances to Jing-Mei’s personal growth because he cannot navigate her channel. Her mother insists that she should become a music prodigy, but personally, Jing-Mei is not interested in music (Rashid). Furthermore, it is difficult for Jing-Mei to shift from cultural boundaries and obstacles, yet her mother is not receptive to her plea.


In conclusion, a family has a vital effect on one's personal development. Many factors, like parental expectations, can stifle and influence children's ambitions. Jing-Mei’s mother forces her expectations to translate into her daughter’s desires. She wants her daughter to become a music prodigy, but her daughter has no interest in music. Besides, Jing-Mei’s personal development is hindered by her mother’s expectations since she struggles to go by her mother’s wishes at the expense of her desires.

Works Cited

Asharudin, Ahmad. American Dream and Culture Clash as Reflected in the Joy Luck Club: Two Kinds By Amy Tan. Diss. Fakultas Bahasa UNISSULA, 2016.

Hoyte, Kirsten Dinnall. "Contradiction and Culture: Revisiting Amy Tan's" Two Kinds"(Again)." Minnesota Review 61.1 (2004): 161-169.

Rashid, Akm Aminur. "Why don't you like me the way I am? I'm not a genius": A Mistakable Understanding of a Child Prodigy in Amy Tan's Two Kinds, the Symbolic Crisis of Identity in the Specific Contexts of the American Dream." IOSR Journal of Humanities and Social Science 19.1 (2014): 33-36.

Souris, Stephen. "Only Two Kinds of Daughters": Inter-Monologue Dialogicity in The Joy Luck Club." Melus 19.2 (1994): 99-123.

Tan, Amy. "Two kinds." The Joy Luck Club (1989): 132-48.

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