Analysis of Jing-mei from "Two Kinds" by Amy Tan
In the story, “Two Kinds”, Amy Tan writes about a relationship between a mother and a daughter. The mother of Jing-mei wants her daughter to become famous, but Jing-mei just wants to be herself. Tan writes about two songs played by Jing-mei, “Perfectly Contented” and “Pleading Child.” In the story the faster and aggressive song, “Pleading Child”, best represents the mother, and the slower happier song, “Perfectly Contented”, represents Jing-mei.
Jing-mei was happy just being herself, but, unfortunately, her mother expected more. Jing-mei’s mother pushed her to become famous. She thought that was what’s best for Jing-mei. “Just like you,” she said, “Not the best because you are not trying.” (Tan, pg. 35) She tried everything in her power to make Jing-mei talented in some way. She pushes Jing-mei right over the edge.
Jing-mei soon found her true, aggressive nature. Everytime her mother snapped at her to try harder, she snapped back. “For unlike my mother, I did not believe I could do anything I wanted to be. I could only be me.” (Tan, pg. 41) Because of Jing-mei’s different view she and her mother began to fight a lot. The greater they disputed, the farther away they drifted. Until they realized the piano wasn’t only the root of their problems, but the solution as well.
After Jing-mei’s mother dies, in the end, she went back to the piano. Jing-mei began to play the song that caused the breaking point of her relationship with her mother. Then she played the song next to it with great satisfaction. “And after I played them both a few times, I realized they were two halves of the same song.” (Tan, pg. 42) Like the ying-yang and the songs, Jing-mei’s relationship with her mother may seem disastrous and apart, but together they share a strong bond that makes them whole.
Jing-mei’s determination to stay that she is, is much like the song “Perfectly Contented”, she is satisfied with the way things are. Yet her mother’s pushy, aggressive attitude is a lot like “Pleading Child.” She pushes and begs Jing-mei to cooperate and become famous. Even though the two disagree, like the songs, they form one beautiful song.
To Jing-mei's mother, America is the Land of Opportunity. She has high hopes that her daughter will be a great success as a prodigy. She's not precisely sure where her daughter's talents lie, but she is sure that her daughter possesses great ability — it is simply a matter of finding the right avenue for Jing-mei's talents. First, Mrs. Woo tries to mold her daughter into a child actress, but that doesn't work. Then she tries intellectual tests clipped from popular magazines. Jing-mei doesn't show promise in this area, either. Finally, Mrs. Woo hits upon the answer: Jing-mei will be a piano virtuoso.