The most important characters in “Two Kinds” by Amy Tan are Jing-mei Woo and Mrs. Woo. Other characters – like Mr. Chong, Lindo Jong or Waverly Jong – are secondary and they are only relevant in connection to the main characters, as they trigger several reactions from their part.
Jing-mei Woo is the main character of the short story.
Her outer characterization is given when she talks about her mother’s efforts of making her look like a little movie star:
Jing-mei’s inner characterization reveals that she is eager to make her mother’s wishes come true and tend for perfection; note that the main reason she wants to be a prodigy is to make her parents proud:
In all of my imaginings I was filled with a sense that I would soon become perfect: My mother and father would adore me. I would be beyond reproach. I would never feel the need to sulk, or to clamor for anything.
No matter how much effort Mrs. Woo puts into making Jing-mei a prodigy, the girl simply does not have the talent or the inclination to it. She does not have the proper looks to be an actress, and she is not able to excel in any test:
Mrs. Woo, Jing-mei’s mother, is the second most important character in the story, as she illustrates the opposite of her daughter.
Her outer characterization is short and to the point and it presents her background:
When it comes to Mrs. Woo’s inner characterization, we find out from the very beginning that she is a firm believer in the American Dream:
My mother believed you could be anything you wanted to be in America. You could open a restaurant. You could work for...
Mr. Chong is Jing-mei’s piano teacher.
From his outer characterization we find out that he is a “retired piano teacher” and that he looks older than he actually is:
Lindo and Waverly Jong
Lindo and Waverly Jong are very relevant for the story because their presence triggers Mrs. Woo’s pride and her wish to present her daughter the same way Lindo presents hers. Lindo is a very proud Chinese mother, yet she always seems to show her pride while lamenting to others.
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While trying to understand the reasons for her mother wanting Jing-Mei to be great, Jing-Mei discovers the real meaning of two kinds. “Two Kinds” is written by Amy Tan. Jing-Mei, a young Chinese girl, grew up in America with her mother, a member of the Joy Luck Club. Through this, Jing-Mei’s mother pushes into being a prodigy. With this, her mother has the idea of Jing-Mei playing the piano.
Initially, Jing-Mei doesn’t have the drive to succeed as her mother does. Her mother has many ideas for her to succeed. At first, it was to be a Chinese Shirley Temple. Then, it was anything out of Ripley’s Believe it or not, or Reader’s Digest. Jing-Mei’s mother would also give her tests—but she failed them all. Eventually. Jing-Mei began to perform listlessly and pretend to be bored. Then, when her mother saw a little Chinese girl playing the piano on the ED Sullivan Show, she got the same idea for Jing-Mei.
After learning to play the piano, Jing-Mei learns easy ways to get out of practicing. As she took lessons from Mr. Chong, who was deaf, Jing-Mei found out that he was just like Beethoven. Jing-Mei discovers that she could fool him and make it look like she was playing and get away with mistakes. If she hit the wrong key, Jing-Mei wouldn’t correct herself. She was determined not to try.
At the talent show, Jing-Mei’s practicing habits show, and she truly learns what her mother wants. She was supposed to play “Pleading Child.” In getting ready for the show, Jing-Mei would cheat and never really listen to what she was playing. When it came to the recital, Jing-Mei was so confident that she could pull it off that she started hitting wrong notes and realizing it. She had felt her mother’s shame. As a result of the talent show massacre, Jing-Mei didn’t want to play the piano anymore. Then, when her mother wants her to practice, she decides that she defiantly won’t.
As an adult, having her mother offer her the piano again, Jing-Mei appreciates the encouragement given by her mother. Instead of throwing the piano away, she has it tuned and taken care of. This shows that Jing-Mei has respect as one of two kinds of people. There are ones who try and ones who don’t. Jing-Mei is a little of both.
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