Two Kinds

This study guide will help you analyze the text “Two Kinds” by Amy Tan. We will show you examples of elements in the text that will be relevant for your analysis. In these notes, we will focus on the summary, structure, characters, setting, narrator and point of view, language, theme and message.

Presentation of the text

Title: “Two Kinds”
Author: Amy Tan
Published in: “The Joy Luck Club” (novel)
Date of Publication: 1989
Genre: Short Story/Novel extract

Amy Tan (b. 1952) is an American writer. She is mostly famous for her novel called “The Joy Luck Club”, in which she explores the relationships between Chinese mothers and daughters, focusing on the way daughters struggle between American and Chinese identity.


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The title of the short story initially seems ambiguous to readers. However, upon reading the story, the readers find out that “two kinds” is an expression used by Jing-mei’s mother in the story, in connection to her view of the perfect child: “ 'Only two kinds of daughters,' she 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!' ”


The most important symbol in the short story is the piano. For the mother, the piano symbolizes greatness and perfection. For the daughter, the piano is a symbol of mediocrity and laziness, as she is not interested in contradicting her mother. For Mr. Chong, the piano symbolizes an easy way of making money or obtaining some services, yet an incorrect one.

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Two Kinds

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