Amy Tan’s “Two Kinds” is a story of the relationship of Jing-mei and her mother. I think many people can relate to the story because the conflict between the aspirations of parents and children is not so unusual.
The story takes you from where a daughter struggles for some recognition from her mother to where she stops caring and starts struggling for her own identity. The story also shows how a mother does everything to provide some chance to her children to become something in their life. But the generation gap results in conflicts. The children become too rigid or blunt and even the inspiring words of parents seem useless to children.
The story covers the struggle as well as the rigidness of Jing-mei. The protagonist, who is an adult Jing-mei, looking back in her life, describes her own attitude and failures and how she did things intentionally to hurt her mother. As a narrator the protagonist does not try to hide the wrong doings she committed in her childhood. In fact, she narrates it so beautifully that one understands those wrong-doing as nothing but just a phase of life. Hence, Jing-mei’s not learning piano properly or her poor performance at a talent show or her mentioning the dead children of her mother intentionally, does not make a reader hate her.
Now when the protagonist talks about her thirtieth birthday, it becomes clear that she feels sad for letting her mother down again and again while growing up. She feels frightened with the thought that her mother has completely given up on her. But when her mother offers her the same piano, next to which they had argued in which she had used her mother’s dead children to win the argument, she takes it as a sign of forgiveness.
The story’s title becomes clear when, after the death of her mother, the protagonist while playing the same piano notices something that she had never noticed before. She realizes that, “Pleading Child” and “Perfectly Contented” are two halves of the same song. May be the incident represents that even after the generation gap her mother and she were not so different. After all, her mother desired only success and happiness for Jing-mei.