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Two kinds of girls
A person spends most of their developing years under the guidance of their parents or guardians.
They affect how we think, how we feel, and how we act. These are among the people who hold the
greatest influence. Amy Tan's "Two Kinds" and Jamaica Kincaid's "Girl" both deal with the relationship
between a young girl and the guiding force in her life. Amy Tan tells of a mother's expectation for her
daughter to be a child prodigy. Jamaica Kincaid tells of an unknown person describing to a girl how to be
a "good" girl. Both essays illustrate an authority figure that has expectations for a young female and why
and how those expectations will come about.
As young children growing up without a care in the world, we cannot comprehend why authority
figures dictate how we should behave. In "Two Kinds", the daughter is expected to be a child prodigy
because her mother believes "you can be anything you want in America". The mother sees other children
with amazing talents and thinks her child could be just as talented, if not more so. She continually places
pressure on her daughter to be some kind of prodigy. The daughter is expected to be a great beauty with
unmatched dance abilities, an untapped wealth of useless information, and piano-playing skills like no
other. In "Girl", the expectations are much lower, but just as stringent. The girl is expected to do a
myriad of chores and to become a "lady". She is advised on how she should act and how she can avoid
being a "slut".
In "Two Kinds", the mother has high hopes; she believes a person can be anything they want in
America and she wants a daughter who excels in some area. All of the mother's hopes lay on the
daughter. Her hopes are bolstered by stories about remarkable children with incredible talents. If they
can succeed are such a young age, surely her child can as well. The mother wants her daughter to be the
best she can be, but she has unrealistic expectations. The girl in Jamaica Kincaid's essays is not being
held to such high hopes and dreams. The expectations placed on her are not as high, but are equally
unforgiving. Her authority figure wants her to be the perfect "traditional" girl. She is expected to cook,
clean, iron, and not assert her independence.
Children, though, are naturally independent and free-willed. For the authority figures to have
their way, the girls must be obedient. Obedience and denigration are the methods in which these
expectations are supposed to met. In "Two Kinds", the mother states, "Only one kind of daughter can live
in this house--obedient daughter!" The daughter does not want to live up to outside expectations, but she
does not want to disappoint her mother; part of her feels obligated to be loyal. The mother compares the
daughter to other children, which makes the daughter feel worthless. The mother talks about a three-year-
old who knows the capital of all the states. She forces the daughter to watch television shows featuring
talented youngsters. She implies her daughter is not as good as the other children. In "Girl", the girl is
given two choices - be a girl or be a slut. Essentially, she is being told what she must do; there is no room
for debate. In between being told what to do, though, the authority figure also reminds her she could well
be on her way to becoming a slut.
In both essays, the girls come full circle. They both go through a period of being told what to be
and what to do. Both girls resent the pressure and expectations put on them in their adolescence, but in
the end, they choose paths that lead back to their beginnings. Amy Tan's girl spends a good portion of
her youth hating practicing piano. As an adult, she plays an entire piece of music and is marveled by the
beauty of it. In some respects, she becomes the child her mother wanted. Jamaica Kincaid's girl spends a
good portion of her youth protesting the label of "slut" placed upon her. In the conclusion, she becomes
the kind of woman she swore she was not.
Source: Essay UK - http://www.essay.uk.com/coursework/two-kinds-of-girls.php
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Analysis of Two Kinds by Amy Tan
- Length: 1425 words (4.1 double-spaced pages)
- Rating: Excellent
Analysis of Two Kinds by Amy Tan
In the story “Two Kinds”, the author, Amy Tan, intends to make reader think of the meaning behind the story. She doesn’t speak out as an analyzer to illustrate what is the real problem between her and her mother. Instead, she uses her own point of view as a narrator to state what she has experienced and what she feels in her mind all along the story. She has not judged what is right or wrong based on her opinion. Instead of giving instruction of how to solve a family issue, the author chooses to write a narrative diary containing her true feeling toward events during her childhood, which offers reader not only a clear account, but insight on how the narrator feels frustrated due to failing her mother’s expectations which leads to a large conflict between the narrator and her mother.
By stating how other people behave or interact, the author offers a great chance for readers to interpret fairly for themselves what the reason for any conflict may be, or the nature of any essential contrast between the narrator and other adults in the story. In the story, there are many self-righteous opinions from people, which seem to be ironic to the readers; For example, her mother’s aggressive attitude of showing off her daughter, her piano teacher’s self-praise claiming him as “Beethoven.” All of the narrations including conversation clearly depict a different characteristic between the narrator and other people. For instance, a conversation occurs between the narrator and her mother when the mother criticizing a girl who seems similar to the author on TV which reveals dissimilar understanding for both of them to each other’s behavior. At first, the daughter speaks out for the girl by questioning her mother by saying “why picking on her […] She’s pretty good. Maybe she’s not the best, but she’s trying hard.” The daughter actually is defending for herself and reflecting that she feels uncomfortable with her mother’s disregard of her hard work. She wants to get her mother’s compliments instead of her criticisms. However, her mother response of, “just like you,” and, “not the best. Because you not trying.” Here, her mother doesn’t really answer her question, instead wants her put more effort on trying, neglecting how much she has tried before. However, in her mother’s perspective, she has never tried hard enough. By narratively stating the conversations she has encountered, readers perceive a strong implication of the reason for a future conflict between her and her mother.
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By looking through the narrator’s eyes, readers are able to understand her stress and struggle from her standpoint. At first, the narrator keeps trying to reach her mother’s expectation. She decides not to response to her mother’s attempt of finding her prodigy after seeing her “mother’s disappointed face once again,” and feel, “something inside” her “began to die.” The “thing” which dies is her confidence and pride, and also part of her responsibility which she puts on herself in response to her mother’s expectation. In a conversation between her and her mother when she is sent to a piano lesson, she questions, “Why don’t you like me the way I am? […],”which reveals that she doesn’t feel her mother likes her. This example points out a deepest fear in her mind that is what if her mother doesn’t like a normal kid like her. As a result of her frustration and lack of concern from her mother, she begins to stop following her mother’s instruction, as a mean to protest her mother’s endless expectation. However, she cares tremendously what her mother thinks of her. For example, she reveals that, after the piano recital, what “devastated her” is “her mother’s expression,” which is “quiet, blank look that said she had lost everything.” This shows how much her mother’s emotion can influence her even after her assertion not to be changed by her mother anymore. Readers can then realize that the narrator never really “hates” her mother; instead, she hates to fail the expectation from her mother. By standing in the narrator’s shoes, readers can then understand the origin and the process of her decision to become a “lazy kid,” and shows that the “evil part” of the narrator is actually an immature attempt to make her mother accept her, she does this by defining herself as a normal person.
The author depicts her mother’s characteristics through the philosophy her mother has revealed to her and the conversations between them. It states her mother’s belief in the early beginning that she thinks people “could be anything you wanted to be in America,” and “there were so many ways for things to get better.” Her mother’s optimistic attitude toward a large feasibility of reaching personal dream makes her mother puts the same amount of expectation on the daughter, in a sense of helping the daughter to have a successful life. Therefore, her mother shares explicitly her belief to her and even pushes her to “try” new stuff; this is a mean to love her in the mother’s point of view. However, the author arranges few arguments conversation which indicates what her mother’s true expectation of her is. She response to the narrator that “who ask you be genius?” and shouted that “only ask you be your best. For you sake. […]” Here her mother emphasizes her real purpose of pushing the narrator to learn and try new skill. Moreover, when her mother shouted to her that “only two kinds of daughters, those who are obedient and those who follow their own mind,” it reveals what her mother’s truly desire is to have the narrator listen to her and consider her opinion as good advice.
Although the author never shows her opinion throughout the story to let readers know what have she enlightened from the whole conflict between her and her mother, she implies what she believes now as a grown-up and put those thoughts into the story as a reference to give readers a direction to look into. For example, she indicates that, “so maybe I never really gave myself a fair chance. I did pick up the basics pretty quickly, and I might have become a good pianist at that young age.” This gives the reader a regretful feeling for not attempting to learn. And also, she tells readers in the end of the story that she hasn’t even notice the song she used to play is incomplete, which not only lets the reader know she doesn’t concentrate on learning, but also is a symbol that she leaves her prodigy part of her unused. In contrast of her regretful message to readers, she gives several clues which function as excuse to those misunderstanding which the author has on her mother during her childhood. For example, she mentions in the beginning the hardship her mother has experienced back in China, which makes her mother “lay all of the hope” in America, more specifically, on the narrator herself. Also, it surprises the narrator that when she finds out her mother has no “accusations and blame” on her when she messes up the recital. This part reveals that her mother doesn’t blame her about the “disaster at the recital”, an event which makes her mother act as though she “lost everything”; instead of punishing the narrator, her mother still keep pushing her to learn piano after the recital, which is a sign that her mother doesn’t really only care for herself, but her daughter’s future. The author intends to contain part of her further understanding inside the story so that the reader will not feel it’s all about an accusation to her mother.
By looking into the narrator ‘s fantasy of being famous, her frustration when failing expectation, her awareness of self-consciousness, her resistance of being changed and even the way she describes others, the reader becomes more sympathetic to the narrator and the further understanding a desire of being loved which lead to her misbehaving with her mother. As a consequence, the story suggests that both of the narrator (daughter) and mother have their standpoint, and they all behave based on their best belief and decision. Therefore, a style of critical review or an evaluation to work on the story will not be suitable. Rather than giving such an instructional textbook guessing about what is right or wrong, a narrative style of writing may be the best reference to look into for readers to judge by ourselves and generate solutions based on readers own experience and belief.