Two Kinds
By: Amy Tan


Amy Tan depicts herself as a Chinese immigrant girl who is being molded by her mother to be a little American girl. She is forced to take piano lessons and become an attempted Shirley Temple look-alike (but failed). Her mother was the classic immigrant in that she saw the United States as "the promise land." Desperate for her daughter to gain fame, Amy's mother presented her with ridiculous tests that a random child was famous for. Amy failed at all of these tests, disappointing her mother. This caused Amy to feel very self-conscious, feeling like a constant failure.

After seeing a young chinese girl playing the piano on television, Amy's mother had a new dream for her daughter. The dedicated mother had promised Mr. Chong, a deaf retired piano teacher, cleaning services in return for piano lessons for Amy. The young girl was not happy about this. She practiced without paying attention to her mentor or the notes. In her first talent show, Amy destroyed the song, missing almost every note. Embarassed, Amy refused to have any more lessons. She was so determined not to play that she hurt her mother's feelings tremendously by saying she wishes she were dead like her mother's previously deceased children. This was the end of the lessons.

Her mother died years later, and Amy sat down at the piano afterward and played the piece she did at the talent show, correctly this time.

Key Concepts/ Themes

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The theme of this story deals with finding one's identity. Initially, the girl's mother does not even know her own identity, or maybe she is not satisfied with who she is, so she leaves China and heads to America in search of an "American Dream." She becomes so obsessed with trying to "become American," that she forces her daughter to assimilate to American culture. She forces her daughter to take piano lessons because she wants her to do well so that she can become famous.

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An important symbol in two kinds is the girl and the piano. In the beginning the girl is stubborn and she does not want to play on the piano. She does not practice like she should and she is very disrespectful to her mother. After her mother gets her someone to help teach her piano, Mr. Chong, the girl uses him to her advantage by not practicing like she should. However, as the story progresses the girl has to try to perform the pieces that she has been practicing and she messes up in front of everyone. At this point the girl can see the distress that she is causing her mother and she has officially made a fool of herself. At the end of the story the girl decides to tune the piano and play the pieces. She figures out that the two pieces were two halves of the same song. The girl actually trying to play the piano again shows the respect that she has grown for her mother. As the story progresses the actions of the girl shows her maturity as a whole. She is able to turn things around and play the piano pieces like they should be.

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There are several important characters in this story. The main character is the author herself, Amy Tan. Amy's mother plays a big part also. She is constantly pushing Amy to be something she's not and makes her do all kinds of things that she is not happy with. Amy's father also plays a small role in the story. Mr. Chong was also one of the characters that came into play. Amy secretly gave him the nickname Old Chong. Old Chong was her slow and deaf piano teacher. Lindo Jong, whom she calls Auntie Lindo, is one of her mother's closest friends. Waverly Jong is Lindo's daughter. She was around Amy's age and they were close friends at times.

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