"Two Kinds"

Annessa Young

Professor Peterson

College Composition II

April 25, 2011

Similarities in Amy Tan’s Two Kinds

                In the publication Two Kinds (1989) by Amy Tan, a selection from The Joy Luck Club is a short story of a mother and daughter that are different[a1]  but at the same time are very alike. [a2] Ni’Kan, which is the daughter in Two Kinds, does not akin to her mother because she feels like her mother wants her to be perfect, but Ni’kan just wants to be herself[a3] . However, in all actuality Ni’kan’s mother just wants what is best for her daughter, because she knows what obstacles life can strike her with[a4] . Ni’kan’s mother had many heart aches that Ni’kan can not relate to because she is a child so she would not have understood the method to her mother’s madness[a5] . Amy Tan uses metaphors, similes, which leads to irony and symbolism to show the similarities between the protagonist Ni’kan and the antagonist her mother. [a6] 

            Throughout this short story metaphors are used to show the likeness between Ni’kan and her mother. Prodigy was a word used a great number of times throughout this short story as well. Ni’kan’s mother stated, “Of course, you can be a prodigy too” (1). Ni’kan’s mother believed that if you lived in American [a7] then you could be anything you wanted to be. Prior to Ni’kan’s mother moving from China to San Francisco she lost everything”…her mother and father, her home, her first husband, and two daughters, twin baby girls” (1). Ni’kan’s mother was saying that she was able to do something and have a dream so Ni’kan could have her prodigy and have a dream and do something too “…I pictured this prodigy part of me…I was a dainty ballerina…” this metaphor shows that (1). Although Ni’kan and her mother had different feelings to Ni’kan playing the piano they both were the same in a sense. Even though Ni’kan acted as if she did not want the attention from her mother as far as the piano[a8] , she did, and her mother wanted to give it to her, though she did not accept it openly, “The lid to the piano was closed shutting out the dust, my misery and her dreams” (5).

            Furthermore similes contribute to showing how Ni’kan and her mother are alike too. In the story Ni’kan’s mother has trouble with the TV set. The sound of[a9]  TV would go out and every time her mother would get back up to turn the TV sound back on it would go out again, “It was like a stiff, embraceless dance between her and the TV set” (2). One could come to the realization that that correlation could also signify to describing Nikan, and her mother’s relationship. Ni’kan’s mother would try to teach Ni’kan and Ni’kan wouldn’t listen, or Ni’kan’s mother would give her tests and she would not try she would just fail them. Her mother would continuously try to help her but it always failed, it was never a success just like with the TV. One day Ni’kan would apprehend the fact that her and her mother were alike some way or another. “Yet I couldn’t stop playing, as my hands were bewitched. I kept thinking my fingers would adjust themselves back, like a train switching to the right track” (4). This is a simile describing that Ni’kan and her mother’s relationship are not on the right track but eventually it will get there. She did not know then that she and her mother were alike but she would soon find out as she continued[a10]  getting older[a11] .

            The metaphors and similes throughout this short story lead you to the literary device, irony. Irony is an essential device in this story; grabbing hold of the irony in the story gives one the epiphany of the theme to the story. Moreover[a12]  it is extremely important to know that the metaphors and similes lead the reader to the irony because without knowing that the reader would not be able to see capture [a13] the irony. The comparisons give the reader hints to what will happen or to the irony in the story. It is ironic how Ni’kan and her mother are alike and how Ni’kan finally comes to see that at the end of the story. When a person gets older, and maturity plays a big role in this as well, that person starts to see that their mother really did not hate them, or that everything that their mother told them was right. And that is exactly what happens in this story, in a sense. For example, earlier in the story Tan explained how Ni’kan’s mother put her in piano lessons and how Ni’kan did not want to play the piano and how she sounded bad and all of that[a14] . “Play note right, but doesn’t sound good…No singing sound…What are you picking on her for? [Ni’kan] said carelessly. She’s pretty good. Maybe she’s not the best, but she’s trying hard…Just like you…Not the best. Because you not trying” (2). It is so ironic because literally her mother was saying that about her Ni’kan, even though she’s saying it about the girl that was on the TV that she obviously did not play the piano good and Ni’kan was arguing her point that even though she was not the best she was trying, actually taking up for herself, and for the girl at the same time. It is also ironic how in the very beginning of the story Ni’kan wanted to be miss perfect for her mother and father and even for herself but it was like the minute her mother tried to push her beyond where she could not imagine she could go, that is when she began to pull back and say well I do not want to be perfect anymore, I want to be myself. But, if she would not have rebelled, is perfect what she actually would have been? “In all of my imaginings I was filled with a sense that I would soon become perfect: My mother and father would adore me” (1). Then Ni’kan second guesses herself and goes to say, “I [will not] let her change me, [Ni’kan] promised [herself]. I [will not] be what [I am] not” (2). The last important irony of this story was at the very end when Ni’kan is finally an adult and she says, “Pleading Child” was shorter but slower; “Perfectly Contented” was longer but faster. And after I played them both a few times, I realized they were two halves of the same song” (6); meaning that she finally appreciated and became conscious to the fact that her and her mother was alike the whole time.

            Irony brings the last significant literary device which is symbolism. All the way through this story the most essential parts is that music symbolizes Ni’kan and her mother’s relationship; from the piano even to the songs she played. “Pleading Child” was shorter but slower; “Perfectly Contented” was longer but faster. And after I played them both a few times, I realized they were two halves of the same song” (6); “Pleading Child” symbolizing Ni’kan and “Perfectly Contented” symbolizing Ni’kan’s mother.

            In the publication Two Kinds by Amy Tan there are many different roads the reader could take in analyzing the short story. Choosing the theme of the story gave a better outlook at the story.  This story can be relatable to many different people because families go through this every day; mother and daughter conflict but at the end realizing that they are just alike just like Ni’kan and her mother in Two Kinds. [a15] 

Work Cited

Evans, Amy Tan. Two Kinds. 1989. Web. 16 Apr. 2011.


 [a1]A little wordy

 [a2]

 [a3]awkward

 [a4]could have used better wording

 [a5] wording needs to be different again here too not really academic

 [a6]thesis is relevant

 [a7]America

 [a8]Reword

 [a9]Of the

 [a10]Reword this part

 [a11]

 [a12]Needs a comma

 [a13]See or capture?

 [a14]Sounds like I am just talking to a friend not really academic but I get the point: NEED TO REVISE!

 [a15]REWORD