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Two Kinds - Com­parison

Amy Tan's short story "Two Kinds" first published in 1989 deals with some relevant, big topics like the American dream and immigration.

Jing-Mei Woo's mother loses her family and entire social environment by fleeing from China to the USA. With great hopes for a better future, she tries to make her daughter a prodigy. After some failed tests she sees a young little Chinese girl playing the piano in a variety show on tv, Jing-Mei Woo has to learn it by a deaf teacher in her neighbourhood. Rapidly she notices that she can cheat so she never really learns to play it. Then in a local talent show, the first-person-narrator embarrasses her mother, father and herself by showing her missing piano skills. Despite that, she has to continue the lessons but rebels. The big argument ends with her wish to be dead like her mother's dead children. Finally, the short story comes to an end when her mother gifts her the piano at her 30th birthday and after her mother's death, she plays again the two parted song "Pleading Child" and "Perfectly Contented". There she notices that if she tries she isn't so bad as she thought.


America, the country with endless opportunities, "From dishwasher to millionaire". With this mindset, Jing-Mei Woo's mother comes to America and works hard to make her daughter a prodigy. But it doesn't work. Her dream gets deferred. "What happens to a dream deferred?" tries Langston Hughes to answer in his short poem from 1951. Although he doesn't come to a conclusion his last line is "Or does it explode?". An interesting question and I see a parallel to "Two Kinds" where the mother's big dream ends with a bitter dispute like an explosion.

Of Course, there is a least one big difference because to my mind Langston Hughes is not fantasizing about a rich and famous life. Something more essential like the end of segregation and the Jim Crow laws.

Pursuit of Happyness

Another material which thematises the American Dream is "The Pursuit of Happyness" from 2006 with Will Smith. Gardener, the main character pursues the dream of a better life mainly for his son by really hard-working at his internship as a stockbroker. Similar to "Two Kinds" they hope for a better life and both parents have to work hard for that.

Regardless of the difference that the daughter suffers under her mother's approach, the key difference is the end result. Gardener reaches his goal whereas Jing-Mei Woo isn't a prodigy and it comes to an unpleasant argument.

L. A. Crash

Next in L. A. Crash (2004) immigrants from different nations, all with prejudices influence their lives in 48 hours. Among many similarities with immigration and living the American Dream, the detective Graham Waters can't keep up with his mother's expectations. He refills her fridge, searches for his criminal brother and lets her blames stay uncommented although they're wrong. In contrast, Jing-Mei woo doesn't try playing the piano, she cheats.


The first-person-narrator in "Originally" (1990) by Carol Ann Duffy, a child, has to immigrate after moving to another city with a different accent. In both stories, the narrator lives through unpleasant times and we see them growing up. One difference is the missing of an American dream.

Never Let Me Go

At last, you even can find similarities in "Never Let Me Go" (2006) by Kazuro Ishiguro. The clones from Hailsham are having a happy childhood but with strict rules and lessons, they have to take. Then they realise that they are a failed experiment but after some time their story ends peacefully because Tommy and Kate accepting their faith to give donations to keep others alive. Similar to that Jing-Mei Woo puts her childhood and all troubles with her mother behind herself when she realises her skill in playing the piano, that her mother was somehow right with the fact, that if you really try and believe in yourself, you can be good at something.

Despite the last comparison may went a bit far, as you can see there are many similar aspects in our materials that are worth to be looked at.


13 Shakespeare Zusammen­fassung Shakes­peare's time


12 Grammatik Zusammen­fassung Common stylistic devices
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