Literary Devices Found In Two Kinds

Jonathan Kennedy August 27, 2012


Two Kinds is set in Chinatown in San Francisco, presumably sometime in the 1950s or 1960s. Most of the events in the narrative of the story take place in the apartment building where Jing-mei and her familiy lived.


Jing-mei acts as the main character in Two Kinds. In the story, she is a dynamic character as well as a round character. Jing-mei's mother is another major character throughout the story. Though, in contrast to Jing-mei, she is static and flat character. Throughout the story, the only clear trait shown about Jing-mei's mother is that she wants her daughter to become a prodigy. Beside those two, there is a slew of minor characters, such as Mr. Chong, Jing-mei' cousin, and Auntie Lo.


The exposition of Two Kinds explains how Jing-mei's family came to be in America and explains, somewhat, why Jing-mei's mother (who will be referred to as Mother from here on) wants her to be a prodigy.The rising action of Two Kinds shows what Mother will do to try to make Jing-mei into a prodigy. That includes regular tests, watching hours of Shirley Temple, getting her a new haircut, and paying for piano lessons. It also depicts the Jing-mei's shift from being on board with becoming a prodigy to resisting Mother's efforts wholeheartedly. Most importantly is her performance at the talent show which leads directly into the climax.The climax of Two Kinds takes place after Jing-mei's poor performance at the talent show. Jing-mei was watching TV, when her mother came over from the kitchen and repeatedly tried to make her practice the piano. Mother then drags Jing-mei to the piano bench in attempt to force her to practice. The climax ends with Jing-mei telling her mother that she wished that she were dead like Mother's children in China.The falling action of Two Kinds shows the aftermath of said argument. There were still clashes between Mother and Jing-mei, but it is clearly shown that what happened in that argument is largely not mentioned between the two of them from then on.The resolution of Two Kinds show the mother and daughter's relationship years after the events following the talent show. It seems that Jing-mei and Mother have made up with each other. Mother offers Jing-mei the old piano which she hated. Jijng-mei refused. When Mother died, Jing-mei was at the old apartment and began playing the song she played at the talent show, Pleading Child. As she looked at the notes, she noticed what she thought to be another song, Peaceful Content. She then realized that they were both two parts of the same song and that you could not to to Perfectly Content without playing Pleading Child.

Internal Conflict

Throughout Two Kinds, Jing-mei finds they the two halves of her personality come into conflict within her. One side of her is far more prevalent later in the selection than earlier. That is her rebellious side, or rather her willful side. This side of Jing-mei doesn't want to become a prodigy. But, her other side, in ccontrast to her willful side, prevails in the earlier parts of the selection. This side of Jing-mei wants to be the beautiful, shining prodigy as Mother envisioned. Though we often don't see direct conflict whith these two parts of her, we do get to see it in one major event in the story. When Jing-mei is preparing for the talent show, we once again see Jing-mei's prodigious side as we'll call it. But at the same time we see that Jing-mei does not want to even be in the talent show. A conflict of interest within Jing-mei occurs.

External Conflict

The obvious external conflict is the one between a willful Mother and willful Jing-mei about Jing-mei being a prodigy. Who wins? Neither, really. Mother never gets a prodigy and daugher has strained relationship with Mother.


The theme of Two Kinds is that you have to go through hardship to reach a content part of life sometimes. This is illustrated through the reference to Pleading Child and Perfectly Contented in the resolution.


The scores of Pleading Child and Perfectly Contented symbolize Jing-mei's life. She was a child pleading with her mother to let her be her own person when she was young. Then as an adult she was perfectly content.