Literary Devices Found in Two Kinds

Georgia Khankiew, August 24,2012


This story is set in Chinatown of San Francisco, California.


The narrator of the story is Jing-mei, a young chinese girl. Her mother (a chinese immigrant) has high hopes for her daughter to become a prodigy. Mr. Chong (also referred to as Old Chong) is Jing-mei's retired deaf piano teacher.


In the exposition, the daughter explains how she has learned why her mother pushes her towards become a child prodigy. The rising action would be the various ways her mother challenged her which would include being quizzed, and starting piano lessons. We soon discover that the piano teacher is deaf so Jing-mei does not bother to actually learn how to play. The climax occurs on the day of her big debut, (set up by her mother) her excitement to play diminishes as soon as she plays sour notes. The falling action is when Jing-mei refuses to go to piano lessons and her mother stops encouraging her to become a prodigy after Jing-mei told her mother that she wished she was dead like the babies her mother lost in China. The resolution is set many years later when Jing-mei's mother calls to offer the piano, Jing-mei did not truley accept the gift until after her mother's death, realizing (metaphorically) that although they are two different people, "they were two halves of the same song".

Internal Conflict

The internal conflict would include the many times when Jing-mei wanted to tell her mother to stop pushing her toward becoming a prodigy but she did not until near the end of the story. She felt the efforts were a waste on her since she believed she did not have any talents. Jing-mei struggled to tell her mother because she was never really pushed to her ultimate limit until her mother told her to go to piano lessons even after how horribly she played at the show.

External Conflict

The external conflict occurs when Jing-mei refuses to continue going to piano lessons with Mr. Chong and her mother grabs her aggressively by the arm and drags her towards their piano bench. This action causes an argument to erupt, hence leading to her mothers efforts coming to a pause when her daughter throws a harsh comment towards her about how she wished she were never born like the children her mother lost in China.


The theme found in "Two Kinds" focuses mainly on the relationship between the mother and daughter. Their relationship can be described as difficult and has a major lack of communication and honesty. The mother wants her daughter to become a prodigy but Jing-mei does not enjoy any of the activities her mother makes her do. She does not voice these feelings until their fight after her bad preformance at the talent show. Jing-mei felt as though she was constantly put under pressure by her mother.  Jing-mei does not truley understand her mother's efforts until she is much older and reflects on the past.


A symbol in the story would be the piano. When Jing-mei first receives the piano, it is open. When she argues with her mother, the piano remains closed for many years and does not open back up until the end of the story when Jing-mei starts to play again. The closed piano represents how her mother's efforts to turn Jing-mei into a prodigy have stopped (much like how when the piano is closed, song are no longer played). On the other hand, the open piano represents two things. Not only does it represent (in the beginning) the mother's efforts but also how, towards the end of the story, Jing-mei starts to understand her mother as she starts to play the piano and contemplates their relationship.

In the first part of the story there is a scene in which the daughter sees herself in the mirror. What does she see? What thematic significance could this scene have? How does it relate to the title?

At first Jing-mei sees herself as a "sad,ugly girl" but then she took a second glace and saw herself as "angry,powerful". The thematic significance of this scene would be how you see yourself does not define who you are. This relates back to the title of the story by showing how there are literally two kinds of one person, the one they portray themselves as and the one they truley are.

Two strong-willed characters are pitted against each other in this story. What went wrong in the relationship between mother and daughter?

In the complicated relationship between the mother and daughter, the main factor of them not getting along would have to be communication. If the daughter had told her mother how she really felt about all the efforts made in the beginining of the story,maybe the mother would not have pushed her daughter so hard or tried to find something her daughter actually enjoyed doing.

Read carefully the parts dealing with the mother’s earlier life in China. How have her earlier experiences shaped her ambitions for her daughter?

Her earlier experiences have made her want her daughter to achieve and be her absolute best. This was to compensate for the fact that since she did not get to see her other children live a fufilling life, she wanted Jing-mei to live the life her children never did.