Amy Tan the "American Dream," Term Paper

Total Length: 1005 words ( 3 double-spaced pages)

Total Sources: 3

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Tan's experience with the piano underscores the stark contrast between the way her mother believed fame and fortune work in America, and the way she believed they worked. She writes, "Unlike my mother, I did not believe I could be anything I wanted to be, I could only be me. And for all those years we never talked about the disaster at the recital or my terrible declarations afterward at the piano bench.... So I never found a way to ask her why she had hoped for something so large that failure was inevitable," (Tan). To Tan, the goals associated with the American dream were simply so lofty, and so exaggerated, that assessing blame to the individual for failing to live-up to them was completely unjustified. Still, to the very end -- even though her mother eventually stopped pushing her to become a prodigy -- her mother held the belief that such social benefits come to those who simply keep working: "You have natural talent. You could be a genius if you want to," (Tan).

However, "Two Kinds" presents a somewhat more complex picture of how the looming shadow of the American dream can influence actions and relationships than simply disagreement over whether the dream is actually attainable or not. Certainly, this is the issue that drives a bitter wedge between mother and daughter; but the fact that Tan does not believe that the American dream is real actually causes her to strive for failure.
On some level, Tan hopes to fall short of her mother's aspirations for her; this is not purely to disappoint her, but to prove a point: she hopes to prove that even if she practices every day, she cannot become a prodigy at the piano. Yet, the story leaves the issue of whether she could actually have succeeded rather ambiguous. Tan suggests that although her natural talent may have been lacking, much of her lack of skill stemmed from her deliberate rebelling against the American dream and, accordingly, her mother's dreams for her future. In this way, the American dream acted as a catalyst toward Tan's failure on the piano; it caused her to strive for mediocrity, simply because she took issue with her mother's belief in it.

Overall, "Two Kinds," though a brief story, presents a rather intricate picture of how an abstract social ideal directly affects mother-daughter relationships. When the hopes of the older generation are wrapped-up in the belief that anything is possible for the younger generation, they oftentimes push too hard. This becomes largely detrimental to their relationship because the child comes to blame themselves for their failures all too often, rather than recognizing -- as Tan later does -- that the goals set before her by her mother were simply unrealistic. She could not be anyone. She could only be herself.

Works Cited

Tan, Amy. "Two Kinds.", 2007. Available:

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