Role Models In Amy Tan's Two Kinds

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Her mind wanders as she drags her pudgy form across the hatched navy carpeting, but her eyes remain fixed on the girl perched on the edge of the threadbare sofa, feet dangling within inches of the floor. And when the girl plants herself firmly on the ground and strides down the hallway in the opposite direction, the toddler’s innocent face fills with admiration. But her own feet quiver beneath the weight of her infantile body, rendering her incapable of standing on her own; she looks up to her sister in all meanings of the phrase. At every age, role models such as these are vital in individual development. However, in a contemporary world heavily influenced by mass media, these idols often manifest themselves in the form of celebrities. Especially …show more content…
Amy Tan explores the profound implications of such harsh standards in her short story “Two Kinds” where it is the youthful Jing-mei who experiences their ramifications firsthand. After her mother, Suyuan, absorbs the images of child actresses, geniuses, and virtuosos, she zealously attempts to mold her daughter in their likeness. As the narrative progresses, the influence of the media surrounding Jing-mei incites her to evolve her perception of what she is capable of achieving and who she is as an individual while simultaneously fueling her mother’s disparate dreams for her future and preoccupation with the American …show more content…
Initially, Jing-mei is optimistic about her prospects of becoming a gifted child and shares in her mother’s confidence that she is capable of filling this role. In fact, after spending copious amounts of time watching Shirley Temple with her Suyuan, Jing-mei begins to dream up a wondrous vision of her future self. “I picture this prodigy part of me as many different images... I was a dainty ballerina …I was Cinderella stepping from her pumpkin carriage with sparkly cartoon music filling the air. In all of my imaginings I was filled with a sense that I would soon become perfect” (Tan 1). Her description is filled with sentimental diction which reflects her naïve excitement and whimsical hopes in addition to illuminating that this fantasy is beyond her reach in a way similar to the elusive princesses and magic of fairytales. Additionally, this is the first mention of Jing-mei’s “prodigy side” and it serves as the foundation for its symbolism as an alter ego fabricated to reflect what she observes on TV. It is evident that she views this persona as something separate from herself; an invention to keep her motivated in her quest to become one of the geniuses her mother smothers her with. As a result of this early inspiration from pop culture, Jing-mei is spurred to

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