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Explore the source of conflict between mother and child in Amy Tan's "Two Kinds"
Mother and daughter relationship is by far the most beautiful and strong relationship existing which holds the same meaning in almost all cultures. Though it may hold the same meaning but contentment and similarity in mindset may differ with the social changes each is exposed to. Having the similar exposure may result in a harmonious relationship. But this is hardly the case anymore. With generation gap or cultural differences highly popular now, mothers and daughters hardly have the same relationship any longer. Times have changed surely but one cannot deny how important and how strong this relationship and during one part of the life the daughters or the mothers realize to cherish it and set aside differences. Amy Tan’s story “Two Kinds” is a wonderful tale of the relationship between a mother and a daughter, which entails conflict and everlasting love, complication and emotional resolution and which is present and evident in almost all cultures. But what can give intensity to the conflict between such beautiful relationships are cultural barriers. In the story the cultural difference becomes the main source of conflict between the mother and the daughter based on opposing mindsets, beliefs, attitudes and values. Belonging to a Chinese and a well traditional background, the mother, Suyuan is well surrounded with ambitions and aspirations for her daughter to achieve greatness and excellence in areas she likes. She left China in difficult times and came to settle in America in the 1940s. Her daughter grew up in the US and obtained American values naturally as this was the only social environment she knew. Although the mother brought her up based on her own values and traditions, but the environmental effects on the child were evident through the conflicts the two soon began to have and the differences in cultures were the reasons to blame. The cultural differences resulted in the mother having more controlled orientation where she believes she can control her daughter’s future, whereas the daughter just wants to be herself. Also, the cultural difference is also evident in terms of obedience, rebel and freedom to explore.
When the mother, Suyuan, first arrived in the US, she knew this was the best decision she made for her children and she never looked back at it. She knew that this would allow herself and her children to explore endless possibilities. America held future prospects for them which she did not find in China. Leaving behind that life she arrived here to start a new life, but doing so she did not leave her beliefs and values. She brought them with her and with time, she began to look back at her decision when her daughter began to show signs of something she did not want her to become. She wanted an anemically and otherwise excelled daughter who had passion and articulation; who was versatile and poise, like her friends’ children. She wanted to brag about her and be proud. But to do so she would force her daughter to be things she wasn’t. she owned this treatment to be her right and believed it to be the right thing for her daughter. She forced piano lessons on her. The daughter on the other hand did not feel like her mother did. For her America was the only place she had acquaintance with and seemed to care less. She did not need the exploration of opportunities right now at the time mere childhood when she would rather have freedom to enjoy and be free. Her mother’s forceful nature and imposition of artful lifestyle was beyond her understanding. Apparently their difference of opinion was directly because of their cultural differences. For the mother embracing such artistic talents one has is the utmost duty of a person and that of the parents and being in a country which holds high aspirations for artists it is only obligatory to explore one’s talents and climb heights using them. The daughter on the other hand who had not yet realized why this was necessary and how worse things can be on the other side of the world had no concern whatsoever over her mother’s obsession.
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The daughter shows signs and speaks of discomfort at first but then acts out in revolt when there is no way out. She loses interest in piano playing as she knows she does not possess the talent the mother is trying so hard to find in her to fit into the American environment. The girl who already believes she belongs to this environment has no urge to try so hard as her mother. Thus, after giving few shots to try and outtalk the mother from the piano obsession, she gives in and acts out. When she finds out the pianist hired to teach her is actually deaf she makes no effort to inform the mother. The mother only hears the polite and positive compliments from the instructor when the girl plays and thinks her daughter does after all possess the talent to succeed in this art. The daughter sees this as the only way out. She personally does not have any interest but only attempts to pretend to play to just pass on with it. She makes no attempt to improve or learn. This was her way of acting out whereas the mother thinks she has and can reshape her daughter’s skill profile and hidden talents. She belongs to the mindset that mothers can shape their children’s personality and talents and likes and dislikes. But what she forgets is that she brought her daughter up in a land which is far different from her own, a land which gives too much freedom to children to be who they are and explore, experience and then decide on their own what they want to be and what they want to do in their lives having fewer influence from family or social environment. This is the biggest cultural contrast that resulted in the conflict between the mother and the daughter. The daughter wanted to explore the world and find her talents with time and space and not force herself into believing that she possesses the talent to play the piano. She didn’t want to force herself while the mother did.
The mother wanted to decide what is best for the daughter and expected her to follow it. What was missing was the passion to follow it in the daughter. This was so because of the mother’s background which gave fewer voice to the children who have no sound knowledge to support their arguments and demands while the parents had sufficient life experience to decide for their children. The mother Suyuan decided to leave her homeland for the sake of her children and believed it was her duty to tell her daughter what was best for her. She provided for the life the daughter lived in. but then what Suyan missed out was that she was enforcing a little too much and even though she was valuing the obedience the daughter was showing her, she was missing out completely the fact that the daughter was only trying to make her way out of it and was in her way revolting. This became evident to her once the competition blew wide open where she had entered her daughter thinking she is well prepared. The daughter made no attempt to improve her skills to be good in the concert and thus showed up improper and weak in performance. Then the mother realized that the daughter does not want to pursue this and has not practiced or wants to practice further. Thus, the lessons ended, but the mother’s dream did not. The respect the daughter had for the mother was highly missing. Though through silently taking the lessons the daughter showed she was being obedient, but really she was showing high disrespect which only hurt her mother eventually at the day of the concert when her performance was embarrassing.
Amy Tan captured the true essence of the troublesome mother daughter relationship in the story, where she highlighted how the cultural differences can produce conflicts in the relationship between a mother and a daughter despite obvious love and affection. The ironic element in the story is that although the mother enforced on her daughter her own aspirations and what she thought was the right path for the daughter which resulted in conflicts between them and rage in terms of threat to freedom and exploration, the mother in fact was right all along. Though the difference of opinion and the forceful assertion turned out to be the wrong means however, the path which she had chosen was in fact the right one for the daughter showing only that despite cultural differences and conflicts which may result from different backgrounds the love and devotion is the same and only times shows how. When the daughter years later practices the piano her mother gifts her on her thirteenth birthday she sees how well and easily she plays when she tries and realizes her mother was right all along. The only difference was that now the daughter freely chose to play and had no assertions trusted upon her.
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