In her short story "Two Kinds," Amy Tan shows how her main character learns an important lesson about mother-daughter relationships when she finds that two pieces of music she though were different are actually "two halves of the same song" (324). Because of this, the girl comes to understand her mother's desire for her to succeed, her own stubborn refusal to be more than she is, and the fact that this interplay of mother and daughter is natural and does not lessen the love the mother has for the daughter. A comparison of the mother and the daughter is evident in the story, just as the daughter is compared by the mother with Shirley Temple and the Chinese girl on the Ed Sullivan Show.
From the beginning of the story, the girl tells how her mother sees America as a land of opportunity and how she wants her daughter to take full advantage of that fact. The mother expects much of the daughter, and the daughter believes her mother wants her to excel in something--in almost anything--to the point of genius. The mother denies this and says all she wants is for her daughter to be the best she can be. The girl uses the word "prodigy" for what her mother wants, and the daughter learns slowly that she is not a prodigy at all but a normal person who wants only to be herself. She sees all the efforts at being a prodigy as actions to try to make her be something she is not. The mother is an optimist and has demonstrated this by coming to America:
America was where all my mother's hopes lay. She had come here in 1949 after losing everything in China: her mother and father, her family home, her first husband, and two daughters, twin baby girls. But she never looked back with regret. There were so many ways for things to get better (269).
The mother is from China, while the girl was born in America. This essential contrast defines many of their differences. The mother has had to struggle to adapt to new ways, while the daughter i...