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Generational Difference in Two Kinds Essay


In Amy Tans story Two Kinds is a battle between two generations; one being a Chinese American girl named Jing-Mei and her mother a Chinese immigrant pursuing the American dream for her daughter. Jing-Mei is very much an American conditioned teenager and her mother is very much a Chinese born mother with her beliefs in child rearing extreme and absolute.

One key thing to remember in the story is Jing-Mei is the child in the story, while she can rebel, she is dependent on her mother. She is a restless rebellion but her mother remains holding the control with almost a dictators grip. This is a universal theme, because in every mother-daughter relationship theres an absolute control of mother to child until the child comes into her own. The story is narrated by Jing-Mei as an adult reflecting back on her childhood and how her mother brought her up. When she refers to herself as her younger self, theres a sense of revolt in her nature. She didnt comprehend her mothers grip of control on her life or what she hoped to attain from it, solely that she didnt enjoy it and would purposefully sabotage things in order to get things to go her way.

This was Jing-Meis way of sticking to her convictions. Jing-Mei was resisting this identity imposed on her, that she was more than her mothers daughter. In the story she mentions her mothers two daughters which suffered an untimely death. Jing-Mei states: I wish I was dead like them. Throwing her bond to her mother into the garbage and hitting her where it hurts. It was basically a verbal assault; her way of overpowering her mother, a willful childs coup dtat. As a child she didnt quite comprehend exactly what she was saying, spite flowing out of her words like venom, as an adult you can sense her feeling of remorse. She realizes her mistakes and why things may have occurred as they did as an adult. As a child, Jing-Mei didnt want to rationalize things; she just wanted to be more than her mothers daughter, more than the atypical obedient Chinese daughter. She wanted to be herself, not the identity her mother foisted on her.

Her mother on the other hand did what she thought best in all the wrong ways. I use wrong loosely, were prone to hearing the words pressure. Were one to rationalize emotions from actions rather than thinking of the reasoning behind it all. Its different for her mother, coming from a collectivist culture, where children are taught to be obedient and never lash out in rebellion. The mother has strived for the best she can acquire after the hardship of losing everyone and everything back in China, and sees no reason that her daughter should exempt from the acquisitions. She came here for a better life, a better opportunity, and she thinks her daughter can be a better version of herself. She never tries to change Jing-Mei despite what it may seem, she tries to improve on what she knows her daughter is. She sees talent, the ability for children to be prodigies as a matter of hard work rather than natural talent. She rationalizes that her daughter simply doesnt want this enough. She rationalizes that her daughter simply doesnt care enough. She tries to force her daughters hand and secures her piano lessons. She imposes practice on her. She imposes her dreams on her.

Theres an obvious power play in the story between the two which is atypical from mothers and daughters. The differences are only made comparatively bigger by the cultural differences, generation difference, and ideologies. Her daughter fights for power over herself and the mother fights for power in regards to how she will grow up. Her daughter has no ability to impose authority, just to oppose it. Her mother on the other hand can impose authority, and has no option other than to quell it as best she can.

Its not a matter of right or wrong, of someone rebelling against a totalitarian parent. Its a story of a parent doing what they only know to do: acquire the best for their children. How she went about it being right or wrong is a matter of cultural perspective, I myself come from a collectivist culture, and conditioning. Many people, including those in class, are quick to call out emotional abuse. Many other people, such as the infamous tiger mother, believe children are to be molded absolutely, with no lee way and no give.

I believe in the end, convictions change. When authority was given to Jing-Mei as an adult and as her own person, she understood her mothers workings. Her mother never wanted her to be a prodigy, she simply understood her potential better than Jing-Mei did herself. She gave her the piano which Jing-Mei considered to be as if it were a shiny trophy I had won back. Truthfully, it was a trophy her mother thought she was capable of acquiring.

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