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.

Two Kinds" is a short story by Amy Tan, which is a part of her book "The Joy Luck Club." The story revolves around the complicated relationship between a Chinese-American mother and her daughter, Jing-mei. The mother, who has high expectations for her daughter's success, tries to push Jing-mei to become a prodigy. Inspired by stories of child prodigies, the mother attempts to find her daughter's hidden talent through various activities such as piano lessons, memorization tests, and quizzes.

Jing-mei, however, resents her mother's high expectations and pressure, leading to a strained relationship between the two. This conflict culminates in a heated argument where Jing-mei insists that she will never be the prodigy her mother desires. After the argument, the piano lessons stop, and the mother's attempts to push Jing-mei to success subside.

Years later, as an adult, Jing-mei reflects on her past and the expectations her mother had for her. When her mother offers her the piano as a gift, Jing-mei starts to play again and realizes that she had more potential than she thought. In the end, the story highlights the complexities of mother-daughter relationships, the generational and cultural gaps between immigrants and their children, and the struggle for identity.

Excerpt from the study guide:

The piano symbolizes the mother’s hopes and dreams, both for herself, as well as for Jing-mei. This is particularly evident in the following line, once Jing-mei stops playing; “The lid to the piano was closed shutting out the dust, my misery, and her dreams.” This suggests that not only is the piano a symbol of the mother’s shattered hopes and dreams, but also of Jing-mei’s misery, which is a result of her being made to take part in an activity which she disliked. 

The piano gains new meaning as her mother offers it to Jing-mei on her 30th birthday. In Jing-mei’s view, this signals that her mother has forgiven her for not living up to her mother’s expectations. Jing-mei’s own acceptance of her mother’s hopes for her can be seen from the following line: “Really, it was a very good piano.” The piano, therefore, also suggests the acceptance and compromises of the two characters.

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Two Kinds

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