Thematic Analysis of the Story "Two Kinds" - Essay Example

Published: 2023-10-11
Thematic Analysis of the Story "Two Kinds" - Essay Example
Essay type:  Book review
Categories:  Literature Analysis Family Relationship
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 1010 words
9 min read

The story of "Two Kinds" discusses a daughter and her mother, who are typically anticipating a future life in the United States. The central aim of the daughter known as Jing-mei is to become a "Chinese Shirley Temple" through developing her talent and passion for singing and dancing. In the entire story, various themes are present in significant abundance. In this discussion, three subjects, namely: Identity, change and acceptance, and mother-daughter relationship, will be explored, using a range of quotation extracts from the main story of the "Two Kinds.”

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Change and Acceptance

The story of the "Two Kinds" predominantly shows the theme of change and acceptance as supported by various manifestations between Jing-mei and her mother. This can closely be linked to the idea of rebelliousness. At the beginning of the story, Jing-mei tends to be so stubborn and rebellious about the changes that her mother is trying to instill in her. For instance, she says, “I won’t let her change me, I promised myself. I won’t be what I’m not.” (Tan, 1989, p. 2). In other words, Jing-mei has a fixed belief that any sort of changes that are being suggested are wrong, and are aimed at barring her from attaining her goals of becoming a Chinese Shirley Temple. Besides, Jing-mei is extremely resentful, by claiming that her mother is refusing to accept her the way she is, and instead, insists that she change. Therefore, she asks her mother, “Why don’t you like me the way I am?’ I cried. ‘I’m not a genius!’” (p. 3). Nevertheless, her mother responded to the claims in a manner that depicts the different understandings of change in the story. “Who ask you to be genius?’ she shouted. ‘Only ask you to be your best. For your sake. You think I want you to be genius? Hnnh! What for! Who ask you!” (p. 3). The response, which sounds harsh, further shows the theme of rebelliousness.


There are different perceptions of identity in the story of the "Two Kinds." Even though the mother believes that she can create a better personality for her daughter. Jing-mei, however, asserts that “I could only be me” (p. 5). The attempts by Jing-mei to remain truthful to her demands highlight the wider gap, which is both generational and cultural. The mother struggles to interrogate for a field in which she believes Jing-mei can excel in best, Jing-mei understands that she must do what she wants. In one of the nights, she states, "after seeing, once again, my mother's disappointed face, something inside me began to die." She decides to use a mirror to gain a clear physical reflection of herself, where she makes extreme cries and sounds. In the mirror, she realizes, "the prodigy side of me.” From her observations in the mirror, she further realizes her potential and reports,

The girl staring back at me was angry, and powerful. She and I were the same. I had new thoughts, willful thoughts - or rather, thoughts filled with lots of won’ts. I won't let her change me, I promised myself. I won't be what I'm not (p. 2).

Perhaps, it is visible that Jing-mei is beginning to realize her potential and capabilities in life slowly. It can be postulated that she has detected an identity in herself, which she firmly believes that is not influenced by her mother whatsoever. She can develop her own identity, which is ultimately opposite of the requirements and expectations by her mother.

Mother-Daughter Relationship

The tension between mothers and daughters in societies is manifested in the story of the "Two Kinds" through realization and consistent fights that are evidenced between Jing-mei and her mother. Jing-mei has no desire to collaborate with her mother to engage in what she does not like. "I didn't have to do what my mother said anymore. I wasn't her slave. This wasn't China. I had listened to her before and look what happened. She was the stupid one" (p. 5). Besides, the prominent tension between Jing-mei and her mother tends to be enhanced by the differences in age, culture, ambitions, generation, and culture. Throughout the story, she struggles with the challenge of identifying her identity. Who is she? An American? A Chinese? A hybrid of these two? Practically, she feels that to get an answer to these questions; she must first reject her mother. However, a decision to reject her mother would show disrespect, disloyalty, and rejection of her mother's heritage and identity. The conflict prescinds by the evidenced intricacies and complexities between the two categories, as she states, "Unlike my mother, I did not believe I could be anything I wanted to be. I could be only me" (p. 5). The conflict of needs is, therefore, open in the story. Based on this theme, it can be postulated that differences in expectations between mothers and their daughters can always lead to struggles in case of difficulties in reaching a consensus. Meanwhile, a turnaround occurs at the end of the story, when her mother finally gives Jing-mei a piano. Her mother admitted while saying, "You have natural talent. You could have been a genius if you want to" (p. 5). The antagonism and late realization indicate how the conflicts between mothers and daughters can be detrimental to the success and fulfillment of goals.

In summary, this study explores the thee critical themes in the story of "Two Kinds." The discussed subjects include change and acceptance, identity, and the relationship between mothers and daughters. In all of the themes, it is instinctively visible that Jing-mei was rebellious to the expectations of her mother and therefore struggled to understand herself individually. In trying to gain a better understanding of her identity, she sometimes was compelled to reject her mother's heritage and identity, a factor that widened the gap between them.


Tan, A. (1989). Two kinds. The Joy Luck Club, 132-48.

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