Literary Devices of "Two Kinds"

by : Lauren Parker


This story takes place in a Chinatown located in San Francisco, California.This is  the oldest Chinatown in North American and the largest Chinese community outside Asia. Within Chinatown,events will take placed at the characters' apartment , church, and a neigbhor's apartment


The main characters are Jing-mei and her chinese immigrant mother. Other characters are Jing-mei's father, Auntie Lindo, Uncle Tin, her cousin Waverly and her two older brothers. Jing-mei also has a deaf panio teacher, Mr. Chong.


Jing-mei's mother was sure she could become a prodigy if only she tried hard enough, and at first Jing-mei willingly agreed , trying at a wide range of talents.But Jing-mei always fell short of her mother’s hopes for her, and as she looked in the mirror one night, she promised herself that she would not allow her mother to try to twist her into what she was not. However, after seeing a nine-year-old Chinese girl play the piano on The Ed Sullivan Show, her mother makes her take lessons from their neighbor, a retired piano teacher named Mr. Chong. When Jing-mei discovered that Mr. Chong was deaf, and that she could get away with playing the wrong notes, she didn't correct her mistakes.

Entered into a talent contest by her mother and teacher. Jing-mei played “Pleading Child” from Schumann’s Scenes from Childhood. Refusing to practice, Jing-mei was ready to preform at the recital unprepared, in front of family and her mother's peers. She sat down feeling confident, but the performance was horrible. Two days later, when her mother said that she continue her regular schedule of practice, Jing-mei screamed she wished she was dead like her mother's deceased children from her first husband.The piano lessons were never mentioned again.

Years passed , her mother offered the piano to Jing-mei as a gift for her thirtieth birthday. A few months after the death of her mother death, Jing-mei had the piano tuned. When she tried to play “Pleading Child,” she was surprised how easily the music returned to her. She then played the piece on the facing page, “Perfectly Contented.” After playing both pieces several times, she realized that they were complementary pieces, as if two halves of the same song.

Internal Conflict

The daughter, Jing-mei, is struggle with always causing her mother dissapointment in her failed attempts to become great at something. Through the course of the book, Jing-mei realizes she couldn't reach the high hopes her mother had set for her. This eventually lead to her giving up on her mother's dreams for her

External Conflict

Its obivious that Jieng-mei is set against piano lesson but she has no control over anything. Her mother, as the adult, can force Jieng-mei to do anything think she wants. This is truly an external conflict, out of respect and fear of punishment for your parent ; you follow their orders. 


A major theme in "Two Kinds" is that pressure doesn't always lead to progress. For example, the mother goes to extreme lenghts to force the traits of a prodigy on her daughter and it all ends in dissapointment. This shows that no matter how hard you try, you can't change someone into to something they dont wanna be. 

In the first part of the story there is a scene in which the daughter sees herself in the mirror. What does she see?

She looks in the mirror and sees herself, something she is happy with. Through out the story her mother is trying to change her in a prodigy, something she feels she doesn't need to be. When she looks in the mirror she promises herself to stand strong and not be changed.

What went wrong in the relationship between mother and daughter?

Not being able to meet her standards, the daughter feels she is a constant disappointment to her mother. The mother sees so much in her daughter, if only she would try, her daughter would reach her potential. Unable to see eye to eye, there is a constant riff between them.

How have her earlier experiences shaped her ambitions for her daughter?

The mother had a hard life, losing her first twin daughters and husband, coming to American was a new change for her. Coming to a new land, she imagined a better life her new daughter. Wanting only the best, she pushes and pushes only wanting the best. She doesn't see it as trying to change her daughter but, helping her become something she never had the chance to.