Background of Author: Amy Tan
• Born: 19.02.1952
• Occupation: Writer
• Nationality: American
• Notable Work:
The Joy Luck Club (novel)
Personal Life of Amy Tan
• Tan is the second of three children born to Chinese
immigrants Daisy (née Li) and John Tan, an electrical
engineer and Baptist minister.
• When Tan was 15 years old, her older brother Peter and
father both died of brain tumors.
• Daisy moved Amy and her younger brother John Jr. to
Switzerland, where Amy finished high school. During this
period, Amy learned about her mother's former marriage to
an abusive man in Shanghai, China, and of their four
children, including three daughters and a son who died as a
Personal Life of the Amy Tan
• Tan received her bachelor's and
master's degrees in English and
linguistics from San José State
University, and later did
doctoral linguistics studies at
UC Santa Cruz and UC Berkeley.
• She resides in Sausalito,
California, with her husband,
Louis DeMattei, a tax attorney
whom she met on a blind date
and married in 1974. their
children are Bubba and Lilli.
Short Story: Two Kinds
1. What city is the setting?
2. What does the mother think of America?
3. What does the mother wants her daughter to be?
4. What did the mother lose in China?
5. What was the first kind of prodigy the mother wanted the daughter
6. Does the daughter like this? Why?
7. What kind of job does the mother have?
8. In your opinion, do you think “predicting the daily temperatures in
Los Angeles” is a realistic expectation?
9. What happens when the girl doesn’t meet her mother’s
10. Why does the girl start counting the bellows?
Short Story: Two Kinds
11. What does the mother see on the Ed Sullivan show that mesmerizes
12. How does the mother pay for the piano lessons?
13. What is the name of the piano teacher?
14. Why did he retire from teaching piano?
15. What kind of piano player does the daughter become? Why?
16. Who is Auntie Lindo?
17. What piece of music does Jing-mei play for her recital?
18. What does Jing-mei say that finally end the piano lessons?
19. What gift does Jing-mei’s parent offer her at the end of the story?
20. What was the two piece of music she plays at the end of the story?
• In this story, the narrator, Jing-mei, a Chinese-American
girl whose mother believes that by living in America
anyone can be anything they want to be, and so is
determined to find hidden talent in her daughter. Jing-mei
is repeatedly tested to reveal any kind of talent
• However, she resists her overbearing mother’s desire
to make her into a musical prodigy in order to compete
with one of her friend’s daughters. She continually
disappoints not only her mother, but herself as well
and becomes determined not to try to have any talent
• San Francisco
• The story is about a young girl’s coming of age
in a family that has recently emigrated from
China to America
Point of View
• First person
• From the point of view of an adult looking
back on her own childhood experiences.
• This gives the story a rich double perspective,
allowing both the hindsight and judgment of a
mature woman and also the freshness and
innocence of a young person trying to
discover her own identity.
– We see the humor in the story right from the first page
when Jing Mei tells us her mother wants her daughter to
become "a Chinese Shirley Temple," (an allusion) as Jing-mei
says."We'd watch Shirley's old movies on TV as if they
were training films,“
– Her mother's knowledge comes mainly from TV and the
magazines she finds in the homes of people whose house
she cleans. "Reader's Digest", "Ripley's Believe It or Not",
and "Good Housekeeping", though very popular, are not
usually regarded as having any serious content.
– Note how inept each of Jing Mei's teachers are: the
beautician has unsteady hands and can't cut hair
properly and Old Mr. Chong, her supposed music
teacher, is actually deaf.
– The chances that Jing Mei really have of succeeding in
becoming a prodigy with such inept teachers are slim.
This is a bit pathetic, but also funny.
– In the early stages of her attempts to fulfill her
mother's hopes for her, Jing Mei imagines herself as
Peter Pan, a ballerina, Cinderella, and even the Christ
– “It felt like worms and toads and slimy things
crawling out of my chest, but it also felt good, as if
this awful side of me had surfaced, at last.”
– The "worms and toads and slimy things" crawling
out from Jing-mei's chest symbolize the anger and
other dark, negative feelings that have been
penned up deep inside her until this moment.
– Despite Jing Mei and her mother’s differences, her
mother only wanted her to use the capability she
knew she had. Jing-mei’s story tells us that she
regrets not trying to do her best and how she had
taken her mother for granted.
Types of Characters
• Round Character: Jing-mei
(a character who has a complex personality)
– Headstrong (purposefully practices wrong notes) but
wants to be loved (surprised when the recital goes poorly)
• Flat Character: Old Chong
(a character with one kind of personality)
– Deaf and strange, old teacher who does not hear
• Stock Character: Waverly
(a conventional or stereotypical character)
– Jing-mei’s nemesis
Protagonist & Antagonist
• Protagonist: Jing-mei
– She undergoes the main
conflict, she desires to be loved
for herself but she rebels
against her mother
• Antagonist: Jing-mei’s mother
– She is unrealistic and tries to
live vicariously through her
• “I began to cry.”
– The action suggests her dissatisfaction with
herself and her mother.
• “You look like Negro Chinese…”
– While the comment is directly characterising Jing-mei,
the comment itself speaks to the abrasive,
insensitivity of the mother.
• “I looked at my reflection, blinking so that I cold
see more clearly. The girl staring back at me was
– After being pushed by her mother to become a
prodigy, she develops a rebellious attitude toward her
mother. This leads her to stubbornness and hardness.
• “Mr. Chong, whom I secretly nicknamed Old
Chong, was very strange, always tapping his
fingers to the silent music of an invisible
– Mr Chong is a strange man who has a certain
– The story begins by
explaining that Jing-mei's
family moved to America
when she was a baby, in
1949. Her mother is clear in
her goals: she wants Jing-mei
to be a child prodigy (a
person with exceptional
talent) and famous.
• Rising action
– Her mother tries to 'discover' her special talents.
She attempts to dominate and control her
daughter's life. It begins with Jing-mei getting a
perm so she could be the next Shirley Temple.
Shirley Temple –
a famous child actress
• Rising action
– Then, Jing-Mei's mother presents her with many
tests from stories of amazing children. The test
include: knowing the capitals of states, multiplying
numbers in her head, finding the queen of hearts
in a deck of cards, trying to stand on her head
without using her hands, predicting the daily
temperatures in cities, and looking at a page from
the Bible for three minutes to see what she
• Rising action
– Jing-Mei's mother sees a Chinese girl playing the
piano on the Ed Sullivan Show and gets the same
idea for Jing-Mei. Her mother arranges for her to
take lessons with Mr. Chong and this begins to
take over her daughter's free time.
• Rising action
– Her mother's determination is further sparked by
a couple of scenes involving 'Auntie Lindo". Auntie
Lindo is very proud of her daughter's chess playing
skills, and brags of all of Waverly's trophies.
During one conversation Jing-mei's mother
stretches the truth a little in competition, and
claims Jing-mei is talented with the gift of music.
At this point Jing-mei says: "And right then, I was
determined to put a stop to her foolish pride".
• Climax : Jing-mei’s humiliation at her own piano
– Her mother is so proud of Jing-mei's musical talent;
she even invites Auntie Lindo and Waverly to her first
piano recital. Although Jing-mei slacked on her
practicing, she actually feels confident about doing
well at the recital. She is overconfident, in fact, and
her performance was a disaster.
– She disappoints her mother, and makes a fool of her. It
is also clear that she has disappointed herself, and she
regrets not taking lessons more seriously.
– The next day, Jing-mei's stubborn
mother expects her to practice
piano, as if nothing has gone
wrong. This is when she puts her
foot down and refuses. To get her
mother to back off, she tells her
mother that she wished she were
– After Jing-mei hurts her mother,
her mother finally gives up on her
being a prodigy.
• Falling action
– Jing-mei never did the best
she could at anything, just to
spite her mother. Deep inside,
she did have some pride in
her piano-when her mother
tells her that the piano is hers,
and she should take it.
– Jing-mei’s mother has recently passed away. She
has the piano tuned, and sits down to play.
– She plays two songs. The first is entitled "Pleading
Child", and the second one: "Perfectly Contented".
These are songs that she had played when she
was a child. She notices for the first time, after all
of these years, that these two songs are actually
two halves to the same song.
• Types of conflict:
• man vs man,
• man vs society,
• man vs supernatural
• man vs self
• What type of conflict is
present in “Two Kinds”?
• External Conflict
– The battle of the daughter to either fulfill or deny the
expectations of her mother, who wants her to be
some kind of child prodigy so she can brag about her
to her friends. (man vs man)
– Jing-mei struggles to find her place in both the
Chinese and American cultures. (man vs society)
• Internal Conflict
– Jing-mei has internal conflicts because she fears she
will never be special, and she worries about how her
mother feels about her. (man vs self)
Title: Two Kinds
• What is the significance of the title?
“Only two kinds of daughters…Those who are
obedient and those who follow their own
mind! Only one kind of daughter can live in
this house. Obedient daughter!”
Title: Two Kinds
The title illustrates NOT the two kinds of daughters
– These words from Jing-mei’s mother show there
are two kinds of people: the one the mother
wants her to be and the one Jing-mei strives to be.
– The story's title, "Two Kinds," refers to the story's
central concern with the mother and daughter as
two different kinds of people, yet members of the
same family, and the same cultural heritage.
– Jing Mei did not understand the truth or meaning
behind that declaration until after her mother’s
death. Jing Mei realized that her mother only
meant that she could be an obedient child by
listening to her mother while at the same time
follow her own heart and want her own prodigy in
– Miscommunication between immigrant parents
and their American-born children.
– Sometimes this takes the form of a parent doing
something, or deciding something out of love for
the child which the child, in turn, regards as
– Sometimes language itself becomes the problem.
The parents generally retain their first language (in
this case, Chinese) and English, for them, is ESL.
3. Growing Up
– Only after her childish cruelty and after growing
up and growing apart from the family and her
mother does Jing-mei realize how much influence
her mother has really had on her life.
– She recognizes herself to be not so separate from
her mother after all.
– Perhaps she also realizes life for everyone
resembles the life her mother led; one part of loss
and failure, another part of growth and hope.
4. Making Choices
• Jing-Mei quickly begins to lose interest in her mother's
dream of being a prodigy and becomes stubborn. "I won't
let her change, I promised myself. I won't be what I'm not“.
This clearly shows that Jing-Mei is trying to resist her
mother's domination and control. She wants to be herself
and make her own choices.
5. Mother-daughter Relationship
– "Two Kinds'' is concerned with the complex
relationships between mothers and daughters. In
particular, the distance between mothers who were
born in China before the communist revolution and
thus have been cut off from their native culture for
decades, and their American-born daughters who
must negotiate the twin burdens of their Chinese
ancestry and American expectations for success.
– Jing-mei’s mother was only trying to pursue the
American dream, which was based on hard work and
a little luck in order to reach achievement and
6. Hopes and Dreams
– Jing-mei’s mother's believes “you could be anything
you wanted to be in America”. Everything sounds too
simple and too easily achieved. Yet the narrator does
not paint a picture of her mother as ignorant or silly.
The story indicates that America is a symbol of hope
and optimism in the life of a woman who has suffered
numerous tragedies in the form of great personal and
financial loss, and yet refuses to give up her dreams.
6. Hopes and Dreams
– “America was where all my mother's hopes lay. She
had come here in 1949 after losing everything in
China: her mother and father, her family home, her
first husband, and two daughters, twin baby girls. But
she never looked back with regret. There were so
many ways for things to get better.” Her mother's
American dreams, then, function as a symbol of hope
for a brighter future for her daughter.
6. Hopes and Dreams
• Her mother has many ideas for her to succeed. She
imagines Jing-mei as a prodigy. At first, it was to be
a Chinese Shirley Temple. She even has the child's
hair cut to make her look like the star. Then, it was
anything out of Ripley's Believe it or not, or
Reader's Digest. Jing-Mei's mother would also give
her tests —but she failed them all. Her attempted
parental guidance was dominated by foolish hopes
6. Hopes and Dreams
• The mother's ambitions for her child take shape
one night while watching a nine year old Chinese
girl play the piano on the Ed Sullivan show. The
mother quickly arranges for piano lessons.
• Her mother places high expectations on the child
and tries to live her life through that of her child.
Sometimes, some children fall victim to a parent
trying too hard or placing expectations too high.
1. How does Jing Mei describe Old Lady
Chong? (she uses two similes to do this: one to
describe to her smell and one to describe her skin)
– The piano teacher's mother, Old Lady Chong, is
said to have a smell "like a baby that done
something in his pants", and skin "like an old
peach", two very vivid similes.
2. How does Jing Mei describe her own piano
– Her own piano playing Jing Mei tells us "sounded
like a cat running up and down on garbage cans".
3. How does Jing Mei describe the people
who come to watch her play piano?
– After her dismal piano recital, people come up to
Jing Mei "like gawkers at the scene of an
• Piano which represents Jing-mei's mother’s
hope in her and she lets her know that she still
believes in her
– In the end of the story, the fact that she had it
tuned and actually sat down to play shows us that
she really cared about her mother-and the piano-after
• “…I was to play a piece called
“Pleading Child,” from Schumann’s
Scenes from Childhood. It was a
simple, moody piece that sounded
more difficult than it was.
• “It was called “Perfectly Contented.” I
tried to play this one as well. It had a
lighter melody but with the same
flowing rhythm and turned out to be
quite easy. …after I had played them
both a few times, I realised they were
two halves of the same song.”
• “Pleading Child”
– As a child, she had failed to
learn this song called
"Pleading Child." This song
title symbolically refers to her
own position as a child,
silently "pleading" with her
mother not to force her into
an identity not of her own
• “Perfectly Contented”
– When Jing-mei finds another title:
"Perfectly Contented." This title suggests a
sense of stability and happiness.
– Through playing both "Pleading Child" and
"Perfectly Contented" again as an adult,
Jing-mei reaches a sort of epiphany, or
moment of insight and personal revelation.
• Then, she finds that she "realized they were
two halves of the same song." The idea of her
negative associations with being a "pleading
child" in youth are reconciled with the positive
associations of being at least closer to a state
of being "perfectly contented," refers to Jing-mei's
adult perspective that her childhood self
and her grown-up self represent "two halves"
of the same person, and "two halves" of the
same identity--the Chinese and the American.
Writing Task 1
• “For unlike my mother, I did not believe I
could be anything I wanted to be. I could only
– What is the foundation of her mother’s belief?
– What does it mean that she could only be her?
Writing Task 2
• “You could open a restaurant. You could
work…You could…You could…”
– Why do you think the author used this technique?
– What is the mother’s dream?
Writing Task 3
1. Why do you think the mother wants her
daughter to be a prodigy? If you had a daughter,
would you want her to be a prodigy? (Consider
what the mother has gone through.) Why?
2. Why do you think the daughter starts to rebel
against her mother? If you had a mother that is
pushy, would you rebel against her? Why?
3. Why does the daughter get mad about the piano
lessons? If you were the daughter, would you
get mad about it too? Why?