Two Kinds by Amy Tan & Feminism – Book/Movie Report – vici_zz
Two Kinds by Amy Tan & Feminism
Feminism is something that has been naturally indoctrinated into our lives. We cannot escape it no matter how hard we try because it is such an immense feature of human culture and history. In the short story Two Kinds by Amy Tan, feminism is displayed in a less apparent way, in that there is no large male role in the story at all. Even though this is the case, the mindset of certain women can give the same affect that men have when looking through a feminist lens. When we consider the culture and history surrounding the main characters, recognizing why they act the way they do can help the reader understand their actions. Through one characters action, we can see the persecution of the other by both actions and words. The reactions of characters are also vital to identifying how feminism works and how women react to it. There are several distinctive reactions such as imitation and protest, and the final stage, which is self-awareness. All these aspects are present in Amy Tan’s work. The time period that characters are positioned in is one of the most crucial aspects of a story. Without a time period, the reader would be confused about the actions and thought processes of the characters. In this story explicitly, feminism is a consequence of the culture and society the mother was from. The only date mentioned in this story was 1949, which was described as when the mother first arrived to America after living in china all her life. Looking at Chinese history, the central belief was that of Confucianism, a system of philosophical and “ethical-sociopolitical teachings,” sometimes described as a religion. One core value of Confucianism was that everyone had to work for what they wanted: “People should obtain their fortunes reasonably and properly through their labor, and not through fraudulence and cheating.” Perhaps this value could be the main reason that drove the mother to become so intent on her daughter learning the piano. In her eyes, her daughter becoming a prodigy meant that she had to play piano, and the only way for this to happen was through her labor. Likewise, the vision of her daughter becoming a prodigy by her ability to play the piano first came to awareness after watching the Ed Sullivan Show. The link between prodigy and playing the piano only was realized by the mother after it was presented by a male host, in a very male-dominated industry at the time—television.
Being required to play the piano is only one of the various examples in the text where the main character is being victimized by her mother. And while the American approach would customarily be thought of as coming from a male to a female, the mother practically takes on a male role in this aspect. She is so consumed by male ideals that she almost acts like one towards her daughter. The mother harasses her daughter quite early in the story by requiring she perform tests everyday. It was said that she took “her examples from stories of amazing children that she read in Ripley’s Believe It or Not or Good Housekeeping, Reader’s digest, or any of a dozen other magazines she kept […] ” (p. 1). By comparing her daughter to these magazines, and giving her tests based on what they deem to be important, interesting, and relevant, she is fulfilling a very male-dominated image. During the 1950’s and even sixties, women were not regularly seen in the workplace, let alone at the head of a corporation determining what is to be printed in magazines. This image that the mother wants her daughter to be is all determined and judged to be right by males, therefore complementing the notion that feminism plays a large role in the unfair treatment of this young girl. Other examples of the American approach can also be noticed in the text. On page two, the reader can see the results of the tests that the mother set for her daughter. “And after seeing, once again, my mother’s disappointed face, something inside me began to die. I hated the tests, the raised hopes, and failed expectations.” Although this quotation is not a direct example of the mother victimizing her daughter, it shows the results of the mother’s actions. The fact that her mother does not give her any encouragement whatsoever can be seen as oppressive in the sense that every child needs reassurance from their parents in some way, shape, or form. And reasonably, from this quotation, the much-needed encouragement is lacking. Victimizing can occur in numerous ways. One way could be action, but the other, and perhaps more significant one, is words. The French approach is outlined as being focused generally on patriarchal language, as well as objectification of others through language. The mother makes a variety of remarks towards her daughter that could only be classified as objectifying her. When the daughter sticks up for the little girl playing piano on the TV that her mom is making fun of, the mother replies with the comment: “Just like you, […] Not the best. Because you not trying.” (p. 2). This statement is not going to help with the daughter’s self-esteem in any way whatsoever. Furthermore, after having this argument with her daughter, the mother walks away, muttering under her breath, “If she had as much talent as she has temper, she’d be famous now.” (p. 2-3). This quotation expressly epitomizes the French approach as the mother says this while knowing that her daughter can hear her. Another question could be asked: would the mother have a different reaction if she had a son instead of a daughter? The French approach mostly focuses on objectification through language in regards to women, so would it make a difference having a son over a daughter? Would the mother be more pleased with her son’s natural abilities?
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(2015, 11). Two Kinds by Amy Tan & Feminism. EssaysForStudent.com. Retrieved 11, 2015, from