East Meets west
The story “Two Kinds” written by Amy Tan is about a Chinese-American family looking for new opportunities in California. Jing-Mei’s mother would to sit her down after dinner and read magazine articles about prodigy children and then quiz Jing-Mei to see if she could do what the prodigy child was doing. Jing-Mei was always feeling that she was not reaching her full potential in her mother’s eyes. Through Jing-Mei struggles with her mother and the piece of music the protagonist matures into the realization that she controls her own destiny and becomes stronger in her own beliefs.
Jing-Mei’s story really starts before she was born because Jing-Mei’s mother came to America after she lost her parents, her first husband, and her two twin baby girls. Her mother set really high exceptions for Jing-Mei before she was ever born because she mother wanted a prodigy child. Jing-Mei starts at a young age to defy her mother on the quizzes her mother gave her because she does not want to be a prodigy child. Jing-Mei would daydream and not answer the questions right if she even knew them at all. For example her mother asks Jing-Mei “what is the capital of Finland?” Jing-Mei said “Nairobi” because she did not know any foreign cities. The only capital city she knows was the capital of California and that is because it was the name of the street Jing-Mei lived on (Page 227).
The next significant event in Jing-Mei ‘s life was when she started to play the piano. Mr. Chong, her piano teacher, was deaf and somewhat blind, so Jing-Mei used this to her advantage by not playing the right note when she knew it was wrong. Jing-Mei never would correct herself because she knew that the teacher was not able to hear the
mistake. Her mother soon bought a piano for Jing-Mei to practice on at home. Jing-Mei also knew that her parents could not tell if she was playing the right tune or not. So when
she practiced she did not attempt to really learn to play the piano at all.
The next event in Jing-Mei’s life is when she had to play the piano in a talent show. The piece of music that was chosen for her was called “Pleading Child” (Tan 230). As always she does not want to play and fights it in her own way by playing the left page over and over again. Jing-Mei’s behavior at the talent show stuck with her for life because her peers not only made fun of her she also embarrassed her parents. Jing-Mei quit playing the piano, but her mother kept the piano until her mother died. Every time Jing-Mei saw the piano she was reminded how she could fight the battels with her mother and win. Now Jing-Mei got her wish, she did not have to play the piano anymore and did not have to hear about being a prodigy child.
After that Jing-Mei thought she was done playing the piano, but her mother thought differently. The next time Jing-Mei’s mother want her to practiced she refused. Jing-Mei refuses to play by kicking and screaming at her mother. After a while of her actions, Jing-Mei’s mother finally says that she does not have to play. This is Jing-Mei first victory over her mother. The pleading child in the piece she played was Jing-Mei.
It was Jing-Mei’s thirtieth birthday and her mother offered her the piano. Jing-Mei saw the piano as a sign of forgiveness or a burden that was lifted from her (Tan 237). Jing-Mei did not take it at first because it was a reminder to her of her first victory over her mother.
All the adversity that Jing-Mei has to overcome is what made her character very
strong. She was that pleading child just trying to be heard, but she never lived up to what her mother had wanted her to become. Jing-Mei was strong enough to make it in life and she did it her own way instead of what her mother wanted.