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East Meets the West in Two Kinds by Amy Tan

Amy Tan‘s ―Two Kinds‖ is a tale of a young Chinese girl‘s life as an adolescent and the

influence that her mother has on her growing up. Coming from a first-generation immigrant

Korean family, I can‘t help but completely relate to growing up around that type of ―support.‖

Although my parents were fairly westernized in their way of thinking, we had an aunt living with

us whom we affectionately called the Tiger Aunt growing up. Having no natural children of her

own, she treated my siblings and me as if we were her own children and pretty much had free

rein to direct us and help to raise us in any way that she wanted, which was with a very

traditional and old fashioned perspective. Tan‘s use of dialogue, symbolism, and the description

of the mother‘s thoughts and behaviors all take me back many years ago to when I was an

adolescent growing up around my aunt and the way that I‘m able to completely relate to the

narrator‘s point of view. I find these similarities to be amazing.

In ―Two Kinds,‖ the dialogue that is used by the narrator‘s mother is one of the biggest

things that remind me of my Tiger Aunt. Aside from the broken English that is used, one

similarity between my aunt and the narrator‘s mother is the tough love approach that they take to

parenting. Just as the narrator‘s mother says ―Not the best. Because you not trying‖ (Tan 28),

my aunt had a way of emphasizing my weaknesses in an effort to bring out my strengths. This

made me turn spiteful towards my aunt, and I paid no regard to any suggestions that she made or

things that she was genuinely trying to teach me. The narrator‘s mother sums up my aunt‘s

attitude towards how I was acting during my many moments of rebellion in two words: ―So

ungrateful‖ (Tan 34). My aunt also had a way of comparing my siblings and me with her

friends‘ kids, and it was as if an unspoken competition was taking place to see whose children

would come out on top with their accolades and accomplishments. This was a part of life that

the narrator had to deal with as well as her mother constantly made declarations about her

daughter that weren‘t necessarily true, like when she proclaims that ―If we ask Jing-mei to wash

dish, she hear nothing but music.

Comparing Romeo and Juliet and Maxine Hong – Kingston’s China Men

In Maxine Hong – Kingston’s China Men a teacher meets students who perceive Romeo and Juliet very differently than is commonly accepted. These students see it as a horror story rather than a tragic love story. What they witness in their real lives (war, death, murder, etc.) affects how they view everything they encounter. Although these students may have a “colored” view, everything that they see in Romeo and Juliet is actually there. They have not imagined anything. They have gone beyond the commonly accepted reading of the play, and have found what lies underneath the surface of all the romance and poetry. However, because they have not examined the romance and poetry in addition to seeing what lies beyond the commonly accepted reading, the story is disturbing to them.

The students read Romeo and Juliet and do not see the love story that society would have them see. Instead they examine what lies beyond this. They see a story of secrecy, sex, murder, suicide, and disease. All of these things are found within the play, but are masked by poetry and romance. For example, these students see Romeo and Juliet as a story of “whispering, tiptoeing, making love, and (children) driven mad in the dark.” To the “normal” reader this is romantic. It is viewed as a story about the most amazing kind of love imaginable – true love ending in tragedy.

What happens around them certainly must affect how the students understand everything. In these students’ real lives they are surrounded by war, torture, and death. Horror is a part of their every day lives, and so it becomes a part of them. It manifests itself in their thoughts and ideas. It has even affected their reading of Romeo and Juliet despite their teacher’s efforts to show them the other side of the story. Another reason that this play is so disturbing to the students is that the characters in the play are approximately the same age as the students. Because of this, anything that the characters do has a greater meaning to the students. The characters are their peers.

Because of the student’s everyday experiences they miss the poetry in the play. They have ignored the motive, the tremendous force that drives the characters Romeo and Juliet to do the things found within the play. This force is love. It is the main reason for all actions in the play.

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