Literary Devices in "Two Kinds"

Javon Brown 8/24/12


The story of Jing-Mei takes place in a Chinatown part of san Fransisco. The Chinatown in sanfrancisco is one of the largest is one of the largest chinese communities not in asia. The area was settled by chinese imigrants who arrived during the 1849 Gold Rush and has been prospering ever since.


"2 Kinds " is about Jing-Mei, a youg chinese immigrant who move to america with her mother and father. Her mother is a strict women that believed that her daughter can become anything she wants to be, but Jing-Mei thought otherwise. Jing-Mei never tried her best at something because she didnt think that she could do anything. Both her mother and father knew that she had potential so the mother asked Mr.Chong to teach her daughter how to play piano. Mr.Chong was an old, deaf, and retired man who couldnt hear Jing-Mei when she was playing. Because he was deaf she never improved and constantly disappointed her mother.


Jing-Mei has always been lazy. she never believed that she could do anything. When Jing and her parents came to America her mother believed that Jing could be anything that she wanted to be in America. First her mother thought that her daughter could be a chinese "Shirly Temple". When the mother took Jing to beauty training school in the Mission District to get curls in her hair, instead she emerged with an uneven mass of crinkly black hair fuzz. After her mother decided that Jing couldnt be a chinese Shirly Temple she thought that Jing could be a math scholar. The mother tested Jing-Mei every day with new challenging questions. Jing-Mei most of the questions. when jings mother gave up on trying to make her into a scholar, Jing-Mei was relieved. After two or three months went by with out any mention of being a prodigy, Jings mother got the idea, from the Ed Sullivan Show, that Jing could play the piano. The mother asked her neighbor Mr.Wong to teach her daughter how to play the piano. Everyday they would practice and Jing wouldnt get any better because Mr.Wong was deaf. Finally when the day of the talent show came Jings mother had invited all of her friends and family to come watch jing-Mei play the piano. Jing was as confident as ever until she acually started to play. she got almost all of the notes wrong. After all of the days that Jings mother had sent her to practiced and had bragged about how good she was, Jings mother was disappointed, shocked and silent. After 2 days went by Jing-Mei assumed that she would never have to play piano again, but when the mother told her to practice piano, Jing-Mei refused. Jing and her mother argued with each other until Jing said that she would rather be dead like her brothers and sisters than play the piano. After Jing said that to her mother, she never asked her to play piano again. as the ears went by Jing-Mei continued to fail her mother. she didnt get straight As, she didnt become class president, she didnt get into stanford, and she dropped out of college. When her mother passed, Jing took the piano and had it tuned. she had found the sheet music that she had tried to play at the talent show. One sheet said "Pleeding Child", and the other said "Perfectly Contended". she had realize that they were two pieces of the same song.

Internal Conflict

Jing-Mei and Her mother had to completly difforent views in what Jing-Mei was ment to do in life. Jing was lazy and didnt think that she could do any thing. She failed her mother multiple time and never found her ture talent because she never tried. She didnt know what she wanted to do in life and didnt worry about it. Jing lives her life with the thought that she will go where ever the wind takes her. Jings mother is determined to find out what her childs talents are and believes she has the potential to become a prodigy at what ever she wanted. The only time Jing-Meis mother lost hope in Jing is when Jing Failed at playing the piano.

External Conflict

Jing-Mei repeatedly lets her mother down by shaving her hair, failing at becoming a scholar, and failing at playing piano. When ever it was time for Jing-Mei to go to piano practice her mother would yell out, "4:00!", to let Jing know that it was time for her to practice piano. Every time Jing-Mei went to her piano lesson she would repeatedly play wrong notes because her piano instructor, Mr.Wong, Whom is deaf, cant correct her on what she is playing because he cant hear her and his eyes move too slow to keep up. When Jing-Mei discovered this, every practice from then on she would knowingly play the wrong notes. since her mother was not aware of how Jing played she bragged to her friends and sister on Jing-Meis piano skills. She was so confident with her daughters piano skills the she entered her in a talent show and invited all of her friends to hear her play. when Jing-Mei played terribly at the show, Mr.Wong was the only one cheering and clapping loudly for Jing-Mei. This most likely made it apparent to the mother that he wasnt the best teacher. Two days after that, Jing-Mei retaliated against her mother. Jing was tired of her mother controlling her life and bragging about how well Jing was doing. After a few moments into the argument, the mother grabbed her by the arm and tried to force her to practice. The mother told Jing that there are only two kinds of daughters, "Obedient daughters and daughters that follow their own mind, and only obedient daughters can live in this house." Jing-Mei responded by wishing that she wasnt her daughter and that she was dead like her lost siblings. After hearing her daughter speak like that to her, she backed out of the room and never mentioned her playing piano again.


A theme found in "2 Kinds" is "Good fortune will be given to those who work hard for it". When the mother came to America she wanted Jing-Mei to be successful and have good fortune, so she made her work hard to make her into a prodigy. Jings mother wanted her to be successful more than Jing-Mei did. Jing-Mei was lazy and didnt care about becoming a prodigy so she didnt have good fortune. She didnt get straight As, make it into Stanford, or stay in college. If she had the same determination as her mother for her to become a prodigy then she might have been alittle more successful in life.


One example of symbolism in the story is the second hand piano that Jing-Meis mother offered her on Jings thirtieth birth day. Jing-Mei saw it as a symbol of forgiveness and a burden removed.

The Mirror Scene

In a scene near the beginning of the story, Jing-Mei is asked to read the bible for three minutes and report everything that she had read. After seeing the disappointed look on her mothers face from only being able to recite a small part of it Jing was disappointed in herself as well. When she went into the bathroom that night, she looked in the mirror and saw only her face. she began to cry and lose hope that she would ever be anything because she thought that it would always be that ordinary face staring back at her. The second time that she looked she saw an angry little girl that was just like her. Then she promised herself that she wouldnt let her mother change her.

The thematic significance of this scene is that she knew what kind of person she was. She wasnt hardworking and didnt think that she was gifted in anything, therefore she never tried and never succeeded.

The Mirror Scene relates to the title because there were two kinds of children. She could either be the pleeding child that wasnt happy with what she had, or she could be contended and be thankful that her mother was trying so hard to help her succeed in life.

The Friction Between Mother and Child

The relationship between Jing-Mei and her mother is one that most families face from time to time. Jing doesnt want her mother to change her so she either doesnt try her best at something or she tries to do almost the opposite of what her mother wants.

Past Experiences VS Future Expectations

Jing-Meis mother moved to San Francisco after losing both of her parents, her first husband, her home, and her four children. In a way she connects all of her loses to her only child. The mother tries her best to give Jing-Mei every chance she can get at being successful at something. As a parent She wants to see Jing-Mei succeed. When she lived in China, she had many hopes and dreams for her children, but having lost her four children those hopes were destroyed. When she came to America, she had the thought that things could get better in so many way. When she had Jing-Mei She began to build up those hopes and give Jing-Mei what her sisters didnt have.