Wafting through the air of Jing-mei Woo’s childhood home in San Francisco was the sound of her mother’s piano playing. For Jing-mei, the piano was both an object of curiosity and an instrument of unattainable expectations. In Amy Tan’s “Two Kinds,” the piano symbolizes the tension between Jing-mei and her mother, a tension that ultimately leads to a strained relationship with her Chinese identity.
At the heart of “Two Kinds” lies the idea of the American Dream and the impossibly high standards that immigrant parents hold for their children. For Jing-mei’s mother, the piano represents the embodiment of the American Dream and the success and status that comes with it. As a result, Jing-mei is pushed to learn the instrument, even though she has no interest in it. The constant pressure to succeed creates a rift between Jing-mei and her mother that is only amplified by the piano’s presence in their home.
The piano serves not only as a physical object within “Two Kinds,” but also as a metaphor for the mother-daughter relationship at the core of the story. Jing-mei’s frustration with the piano reflects her growing resentment towards her mother’s expectations. In turn, her mother’s insistence on Jing-mei playing the piano highlights the generational and cultural differences between the two. Ultimately, the piano symbolizes the ways in which cultural identity and familial expectations are intertwined, and the toll they can take on an individual’s sense of self.
The Significance of the Piano in “Two Kinds”
The piano is the central symbol in the short story “Two Kinds” by Amy Tan. Throughout the story, it represents the relationship between Jing-mei and her mother, the American Dream, and the struggle for self-identity. Below are the in-depth explanations of the significance of the piano in “Two Kinds”.
The Relationship between Jing-mei and her Mother
The piano symbolizes the strained relationship between Jing-mei and her mother. It represents their different goals and expectations for Jing-mei’s future. Jing-mei’s mother wants her to be a prodigy and fulfill the American Dream through her talent, while Jing-mei resists her mother’s push and the pressure of being perfect. The piano, therefore, becomes a constant reminder of their conflicting desires and a source of tension and frustration between them.
The American Dream
The piano also symbolizes the American Dream, which is the opportunity for anyone to become successful through hard work and talent. Jing-mei’s mother believes that her daughter can achieve this dream by becoming a piano prodigy. She pushes Jing-mei to practice tirelessly and compete in talent shows, all in the hope of making her daughter successful. However, Jing-mei’s failure to become a prodigy reflects the harsh reality of the American Dream – that not everyone can achieve it, regardless of their abilities and efforts.
The Struggle for Self-Identity
Finally, the piano also symbolizes Jing-mei’s search for self-identity. She initially resists her mother’s push for piano lessons, but after her mother’s death, Jing-mei discovers the importance of the piano to her mother and herself. She realizes that the song she had been playing all along, “Pleading Child,” was actually “Prelude.” The song represents Jing-mei’s struggle to reconcile her own desires with her mother’s expectations and to find her own identity. By the end of the story, Jing-mei accepts her mother’s love and her own imperfections, symbolized by the piano she once rejected.
The Importance of the Piano Teacher in the Story
One of the central characters in Amy Tan’s “Two Kinds” is the piano teacher, Old Chong. Although he does not have many speaking lines in the story, his presence is crucial to the narrative’s development.
Old Chong symbolizes discipline, perfectionism, and the immigrant experience. During his lessons with Jing-mei, he represents the idea that anyone can achieve greatness if they work hard enough. Old Chong is not interested in Jing-mei’s natural talents; he wants her to master the mechanics of playing the piano.
- Old Chong expects Jing-mei to practice for hours at a time, to perfect each piece before moving on to another one.
- He does not flatter Jing-mei or coddle her, insisting she read more difficult music just in the quest for improvement.
- He serves as a strict, uncompromising authority figure, which is evident when Jing-mei’s mother cannot interfere with his teaching methods.
The role of the piano teacher is significant because he serves as the interpreter of the “American Dream” for Jing-mei’s mother. Old Chong believes that hard work, not natural talent, is the path to success in America. He represents the idea that the Chinese-American children they teach are capable of achieving greatness if they meet his expectations and practice diligently.
In conclusion, the discipline and strict teaching methods by Old Chong represent the larger immigrant experience of fighting for acceptance into American society by proving oneself worthy through hard work and sacrifice.
|The piano teacher (Old Chong)||The immigrant experience, perfectionism, and discipline|
|The piano||An instrument of transformation or mediator of Jing-mei’s mother’s ambitions for her daughter|
Thus, the piano teacher and the piano itself symbolically represent the larger themes of the immigrant experience and the quest for the American dream in “Two Kinds”.
The Piano as a Representation of the American Dream
In Amy Tan’s “Two Kinds,” the piano symbolizes the American Dream. The American Dream is the idea that anyone, regardless of their background, can achieve success through hard work and determination. The piano represents this ideal because it is a symbol of both culture and success. In the story, Jing-mei’s mother buys her a piano and pays for lessons because she believes that Jing-mei can become a great musician and achieve success in America.
- The piano is a symbol of culture
- The piano is a symbol of success
- The piano represents the American Dream
Firstly, the piano is a symbol of culture. It is an instrument that has been used for centuries in Western classical music. By buying Jing-mei a piano and paying for lessons, her mother exposes her to the world of classical music. This is important because Jing-mei comes from a Chinese immigrant family, and her mother wants her to assimilate to American culture by learning to play the piano.
Secondly, the piano is a symbol of success. In the story, Jing-mei’s mother believes that if Jing-mei becomes a great musician, she will be successful in America. The piano is seen as a way for Jing-mei to achieve the American Dream, which is often associated with financial success and upward mobility.
Thirdly, the piano represents the American Dream. By buying Jing-mei a piano and paying for lessons, her mother is investing in her future success. This is an expression of the American Dream, which is the idea that anyone, regardless of their background, can achieve success through hard work and determination. The piano symbolizes the hope and aspiration that Jing-mei’s mother has for her daughter.
Overall, the piano is a powerful symbol in “Two Kinds.” It represents culture, success, and the American Dream. It is a reminder that despite the challenges that come with pursuing the American Dream, anything is possible through hard work and determination.
The role of music in the story
One of the central themes in Amy Tan’s “Two Kinds” is the role of music and its symbolism in the protagonist’s life. The piano, in particular, acts as a powerful symbol of hope, failure, and ambition throughout the story.
The piano as a symbol of hope and failure
- The piano represents hope for Jing-mei’s mother, who sees her daughter’s talent as a way to fulfill her own unrealized dreams.
- However, Jing-mei’s refusal to practice and her subsequent failure at the talent show symbolize the disappointment and broken dreams of both mother and daughter.
- The piano itself becomes a reminder of these unfulfilled hopes, gathering dust in the corner of Jing-mei’s living room as a symbol of her failure to meet her mother’s expectations.
The piano as a symbol of ambition
Despite its negative association with failure, the piano also acts as a symbol of ambition and the pursuit of excellence. Jing-mei’s determination to master the instrument reflects her own desires to find her place in the world and assert her independence.
- Jing-mei’s stubbornness and rebellion against her mother’s expectations is ultimately rooted in her own desire for autonomy and self-discovery.
- The piano thus becomes a vehicle for Jing-mei to express herself and find her own identity, even if it means defying her mother’s plans for her.
The transformative power of music
Finally, the role of music in “Two Kinds” extends beyond its symbolic meaning in relation to the piano. Music also acts as a transformative force for Jing-mei, allowing her to connect with her own emotions and experiences in a powerful way.
In the climactic scene of the story, Jing-mei realizes the true meaning of the song she is playing on the piano, “Pleading Child.” This realization allows her to reconcile with her past and accept herself, flaws and all.
|Piano||Hope, failure, ambition|
|“Pleading Child” song||Jing-mei’s emotional journey and self-acceptance|
|Musical talent||A source of pride and expectation for Jing-mei’s mother|
The piano, therefore, serves as a multifaceted symbol in “Two Kinds,” embodying themes of hope, failure, ambition, and emotional transformation. Through music, Jing-mei begins to forge her own path and find a sense of inner peace, even as she struggles with her complex relationship with her mother.
The relationship between Jing-mei and her mother through the piano.
The piano is a powerful symbol that represents the complex relationship between Jing-mei and her mother in the story “Two Kinds” by Amy Tan. Through the piano, we can see the tension and conflict between the two characters, but we can also see the bond and love that exists beneath the surface.
- 1. The piano as a symbol of Jing-mei’s mother’s dreams
- 2. The piano as a symbol of Jing-mei’s rebellion
- 3. The piano as a symbol of Jing-mei’s identity and self-discovery
The relationship between Jing-mei and her mother through the piano is complex and multi-faceted. On the one hand, the piano symbolizes the high expectations that Jing-mei’s mother has for her daughter. Jing-mei’s mother sees her daughter as a prodigy and believes that with enough hard work and discipline, she can become a famous concert pianist like the child prodigy Waverly Jong. The piano becomes a symbol of Jing-mei’s mother’s dreams for her daughter, and she pushes her relentlessly to achieve them.
On the other hand, the piano also becomes a source of tension and rebellion for Jing-mei. She struggles to live up to her mother’s expectations and resents the pressure that is placed upon her. When her mother forces her to practice for hours every day and enter a talent contest, Jing-mei rebels and purposely plays poorly. This rebellion is not just against her mother’s expectations but against the cultural identity that her mother is trying to impose on her.
However, as the story progresses, we see the piano take on a new meaning for Jing-mei. She begins to see the instrument as a way to connect with her mother and her heritage. Through playing the pieces that her mother had played as a child prodigy, Jing-mei begins to understand her mother’s dreams and aspirations for her daughter. The piano also becomes a way for Jing-mei to explore her own identity, and she eventually discovers that she is not a prodigy but a “possible genius” in her own right.
|The piano as a symbol of Jing-mei’s mother’s dreams||The piano as a symbol of Jing-mei’s rebellion||The piano as a symbol of Jing-mei’s identity and self-discovery|
|Jing-mei’s mother sees the piano as a way for her daughter to become a famous concert pianist like Waverly Jong.||Jing-mei rebels against her mother’s expectations by purposely playing poorly.||Jing-mei uses the piano to explore her cultural identity and discovers her own talents and potential.|
|For Jing-mei’s mother, the piano represents the fulfillment of the American dream.||Jing-mei’s rebellion is a way for her to assert her own identity and independence.||The piano is a way for Jing-mei to connect with her mother and understand her dreams for her daughter.|
Overall, the piano is a powerful and multifaceted symbol in “Two Kinds.” It represents both the dreams and expectations that parents have for their children as well as the struggles and rebellion that children experience as they try to find their own identity. Through the piano, we see the complex relationship between Jing-mei and her mother and the ways in which they are both united and divided by their cultural and generational differences.
The Piano as a Means of Communication Between the Mother and Daughter
In the short story “Two Kinds” by Amy Tan, the relationship between the mother and daughter is complex and often strained. However, the piano serves as a means of communication that brings them together and allows them to express themselves in ways that words cannot.
- Through the piano, the daughter is able to express her innermost thoughts and emotions, even if she is unable to put them into words. This is evidenced by her ability to play the complicated piece “Pleading Child,” which her mother recognizes as a representation of her own hardships.
- Similarly, the mother is able to convey her own experiences and hopes for her daughter through the piano. She believes that her daughter could be a prodigy like the ones she has seen on TV and pushes her to practice and perform.
- However, their communication through the piano is not always positive. The daughter resents her mother’s constant pressure and eventually rebels against it by intentionally playing poorly at a talent show.
Overall, the piano is a powerful symbol of the relationship between the mother and daughter in “Two Kinds.” It represents both their shared experiences and their struggles to understand each other. Through it, they are able to communicate on a deeper level than words alone could allow.
The cultural differences surrounding the piano and music in the story
The piano is a powerful symbol in Amy Tan’s “Two Kinds,” representing not only the cultural differences between the protagonist and her mother but also the varied experiences that come with immigration. Through the depiction of the piano, Tan gives insight into the Chinese-American experience and the way it shapes Asian cultural identity in the United States.
In the story, Jing-mei’s mother has high expectations for her daughter, hoping she’ll become a prodigy in the field of classical music. The piano is the centerpiece of Jing-mei’s mother’s dream, as it represents the possibility of fulfilling the American Dream, through music. However, as a symbol, the piano also represents a cultural divide between the mother and daughter. Jing-mei sees it as just another thing her mother is forcing upon her, and she cannot fathom how much her mother cares for the piano. In contrast, her mother sees the piano as a way for Jing-mei to improve her identity as a musician and ultimately as a Chinese-American citizen.
- The piano symbolizes the American Dream and the idea that with hard work and perseverance, one can achieve success regardless of cultural background.
- The piano also represents Jing-mei’s feeling of being trapped in between two cultures, uncertain of where she fits in.
- The mother’s desire for Jing-mei to become a musical prodigy is a reflection of the cultural expectations placed on Chinese children, which are often in conflict with the Western values of individuality and independence.
The piano serves as a metaphor for the immigrant experience, as it represents the desire to achieve success and fulfill a dream that is different from the one’s traditional home. As such, the piano carries cultural significance that transcends the individual desires and beliefs of its characters.
Furthermore, the piano plays an important role in reflecting the diverse forms of American culture depicted in the story. Tan uses the piano to demonstrate the East-West contrast between Chinese and American traditions. She highlights the disparities between Chinese and American classical music, and how the piano can be associated with each of them in different ways. The table below depicts the differences between the two musical styles as depicted in “Two Kinds.”
|Chinese Classical Music||American Classical Music|
|Melodies composed of pentatonic scales||Chromatic and major/minor scales|
|Emphasis on technique and precision rather than individuality||Emphasis on individual expression|
|Music performed in ensembles||Solo performances|
Overall, the piano in “Two Kinds” is a complex symbol of cultural identity, the immigrant experience, and the contrasting musical traditions of China and America. It is a great example of how the power of a single object can represent a multitude of ideas and values.
The Symbolic Meaning of the Missing Keys on the Piano
In the short story “Two Kinds” by Amy Tan, the piano is a major symbol that represents the relationship between Jing-mei Woo and her mother. The piano symbolizes not only Jing-mei’s mother’s unfulfilled dreams but also Jing-mei’s struggle to find her own identity as an American-born daughter of Chinese immigrants. The missing keys on the piano hold significant symbolic meaning as they represent the losses and imperfections in Jing-mei’s life.
- Loss of Innocence: The missing keys on the piano can be seen as a metaphor for Jing-mei’s loss of innocence. When Jing-mei is first introduced to the piano, she sees it as a source of joy and excitement. However, when her mother begins to push her to become a prodigy, the joy is replaced by pressure and the excitement turns into disappointment. The missing keys on the piano reflect the loss of Jing-mei’s childhood innocence as she realizes that her mother’s expectations are too high for her to meet.
- Imperfection: The missing keys on the piano also symbolize Jing-mei’s imperfections. Just as the piano is incomplete without all its keys, Jing-mei feels incomplete without her mother’s approval. Jing-mei’s inability to play the piano perfectly reflects her own imperfections and inability to meet her mother’s expectations. The missing keys are a constant reminder of her failures.
- Unfulfilled Dreams: The missing keys on the piano can be seen as a symbol of Jing-mei’s mother’s unfulfilled dreams. Jing-mei’s mother had ambitions of becoming a pianist but was unable to pursue her dream due to the limitations of her immigrant background. The missing keys on the piano represent the keys that her mother was never able to play and the dreams that she was never able to fulfill.
The piano in “Two Kinds” is much more than just a musical instrument. It is a symbol that represents the complex relationship between a mother and daughter, the struggles of immigrants to adapt to a new culture, and the multifaceted nature of the American Dream. The missing keys on the piano hold significant symbolic meaning as they represent the losses and imperfections in Jing-mei’s life.
Overall, “Two Kinds” is a poignant and powerful story that explores the themes of identity, self-discovery, and the mother-daughter bond. The symbolism of the piano and its missing keys adds depth and meaning to the narrative and helps to convey the complex emotions and experiences of the protagonist.
|Symbolic Meaning||Examples from the Story|
|Loss of Innocence||When Jing-mei realizes that her mother’s expectations are too high for her to meet and that her dreams of being a prodigy are unattainable.|
|Imperfection||When Jing-mei is unable to play the piano perfectly and her mother criticizes her for her mistakes.|
|Unfulfilled Dreams||When Jing-mei’s mother reveals that she had dreams of becoming a pianist but was unable to pursue them due to her immigrant background.|
The missing keys on the piano in “Two Kinds” are a powerful symbol that adds depth and meaning to the story. They represent the losses and imperfections in Jing-mei’s life, her mother’s unfulfilled dreams, and the complexity of their relationship.
The Contrast Between the Two Different Types of Piano Pieces Played in the Story
Throughout the short story “Two Kinds” by Amy Tan, the piano serves as a powerful symbol that represents both the mother-daughter relationship and the struggle for identity. As Jing-mei Woo, the main character, is pushed by her mother to become a prodigy, the piano becomes the centerpiece of their conflict. The piano pieces played in the story are of two different types, which reflect the contrasting viewpoints of Jing-mei and her mother.
- The Classical Piece: The first piano piece Jing-mei plays is the “Pleading Child” by Mozart, a classical piece that she finds boring and unmusical. Her mother, on the other hand, sees it as a masterpiece and believes that Jing-mei has the potential to become a prodigy if she works hard enough. The classical piece symbolizes her mother’s beliefs about the importance of hard work, discipline and conformity.
- The Contemporary Piece: The second piece Jing-mei plays is a popular song, “Perfectly Contented” from “The Yellow River Concerto” by Xian Xinghai. This piece is what Jing-mei believes to be “easy” and “fun” to play, and she takes pleasure in being the center of attention as she plays the tune. The contemporary piece represents Jing-mei’s desire for personal freedom, individuality, and creativity.
The contrast between the two types of piano pieces highlights the cultural conflict between Jing-mei and her mother. Jing-mei wants to be her own person, free to pursue her own interests and passions, while her mother wants her to be successful and achieve the American Dream. The piano becomes a symbol of their conflicting desires, with Jing-mei wanting to play what she likes, while her mother wants her to play what she believes will lead to success.
Despite the conflict, the piano ultimately brings Jing-mei and her mother closer together. After years of estrangement, Jing-mei tries to repair her relationship with her mother by playing the piano again. This time, she plays the same two songs that she played as a child: the classical piece and the contemporary piece. Through this act, she shows her mother that she has not given up on music entirely, but has found a way to combine both the discipline and structure of classical music with the freedom and creativity of contemporary music.
|Symbol||Jing-mei’s Interpretation||Her Mother’s Interpretation|
|The Piano||Desire for freedom, individuality, creativity||Belief in hard work, discipline, conformity|
|The Classical Piece||Boring, unmusical||Masterpiece|
|The Contemporary Piece||Easy, fun||No value, not a real piece of music|
The conflict over the piano pieces in “Two Kinds” ultimately highlights the differences in cultural values that exist between Jing-mei and her mother. However, through music, they eventually find a way to connect and understand one another. The piano comes to symbolize not only the struggle for identity, but also the power of music to bridge cultural divides and bring people together.
The Piano as a Metaphor for Jing-mei’s Personal Identity Struggle
The piano in “Two Kinds” serves as a powerful metaphor for Jing-mei’s personal identity struggle. As a young girl growing up in San Francisco’s Chinatown, Jing-mei is caught between two cultures – her Chinese heritage and American upbringing. Her mother, who immigrated to America from China, believes in the “American Dream” and wants Jing-mei to become a prodigy, through the help of playing the piano, in order to prove to the world that anything is possible. However, Jing-mei struggles to reconcile her mother’s expectations with her own sense of self, ultimately leading to a painful estrangement.
- The piano is a symbol of Jing-mei’s mother’s ambitions
- Jing-mei’s initial excitement turns to frustration and rebellion
- The piano comes to represent the divide between Jing-mei and her mother
At first, Jing-mei is excited by the prospect of becoming a piano prodigy. She practices diligently and feels a sense of accomplishment when she masters a difficult piece. However, as she realizes the full weight of her mother’s dreams, Jing-mei becomes increasingly frustrated and rebellious. She resents the pressure that her mother is placing on her, and feels as though she cannot measure up to her mother’s expectations.
The piano comes to represent the divide between Jing-mei and her mother. The instrument becomes a symbol of Jing-mei’s mother’s ambitions, and the fact that Jing-mei cannot meet those expectations causes a rift between them. As Jing-mei reflects on her childhood, she acknowledges that the piano is more than just an instrument. It represents her struggle to reconcile her Chinese heritage with her American upbringing, and to find her own sense of identity.
As shown in the following table, the symbolism of the piano is further reinforced by the way in which it is described throughout the story:
|Ambition||“My mother believed you could be anything you wanted to be in America.”|
|Expectations||“Only two kinds of daughters: those who are obedient and those who follow their own mind! Only one kind of daughter can live in this house. Obedient daughter!”|
|Rebellion||“For unlike my mother, I did not believe I could be anything I wanted to be.”|
Ultimately, Jing-mei’s struggle with her mother’s expectations is a universal one. It is a struggle that many young people face as they navigate the complex terrain of their own identities. By using the piano as a metaphor for this struggle, Amy Tan creates a powerful image of the tensions between generations and the difficulties of forging one’s own path.
FAQs – What Does the Piano Symbolize in Two Kinds?
1) What is the significance of the piano in Two Kinds?
The piano plays a significant role in Two Kinds. It is a symbol of hope, opportunity, and the American Dream, as well as a link to Jing-Mei’s Chinese heritage.
2) How does the piano relate to Jing-Mei’s identity?
The piano is a symbol of Jing-Mei’s identity struggle. Her mother’s desire for her to be a prodigy creates tension between Jing-Mei’s Chinese and American identities.
3) What does the deterioration of the piano represent?
As the piano deteriorates over time, it represents Jing-Mei’s lost opportunity to become a prodigy. It also represents the decline of her relationship with her mother.
4) Why does Jing-Mei resist her mother’s desire for her to become a prodigy?
Jing-Mei resists her mother’s desire for her to become a prodigy because she wants to have control over her identity. She does not want her mother to determine her future for her.
5) What is the significance of the piano recital in the story?
The piano recital is a turning point in the story. Jing-Mei’s failure to play perfectly represents her inability to meet her mother’s expectations, and it marks the beginning of the decline of their relationship.
6) How does the piano symbolize the American Dream?
The piano symbolizes the American Dream because it represents opportunity and the pursuit of success. It also represents Jing-Mei’s mother’s desire for her to achieve a better life.
7) What is the overall message of Two Kinds regarding the piano?
The overall message of Two Kinds is that while the piano represents opportunity and the American Dream, it also symbolizes the struggles of assimilation and the tension between cultural identity and parental expectations.
Thank you for taking the time to delve into the symbolism of the piano in Two Kinds. Amy Tan’s novel offers a powerful exploration of the complexity of identity and family dynamics. Please visit again for more literary insights and discussions.