Here is the answer and explanation to the question In “Two Kinds,” by Amy Tan, what does America symbolize to the narrator’s mother?
In “Two Kinds,” by Amy Tan, what does America symbolize to the narrator’s mother?
Jing-mei’s mother, Suyuan, sees America as a place where her daughter can reach her full potential. In fact, the very first line spoken by the narrator reads,
My mother believed you could be anything you wanted to be in America. You could open a restaurant. You could work for the government and get good retirement. You could buy a house with almost no money down. You could become rich. You could become instantly famous.
Jing-mei’s mother very much believes in the concept of the American Dream, the idea that this country is a literal land of opportunity where a person can come with little or nothing and, through hard work and perseverance, can become rich—can make it big—and be tremendously successful. She believes that her daughter is a prodigy, that Jing-mei has some hidden trove of talent just waiting to be discovered so that she, too, can be as famous and successful and rich as Shirley Temple. She wants her daughter to make the most of every single opportunity that America offers, and she believes—as Jing-mei later seems to realize—that the only thing holding Jing-mei back in America is her own lack of effort.
America symbolizes opportunity for Suyuan, Jing-mei’s mother. Suyuan fled China in 1949 during the Communist Revolution. Her life in China had been traumatic; she had lost her first husband, her parents, and her two daughters. She saw America as a place where one could do anything. Tan starts the story by detailing some of the opportunities Suyuan believed were available in America. One could open a restaurant, buy a home, become rich and famous, or get a government job that provided a good retirement. Some of these impressions were probably the result of media or advertising. Buying a house “with almost no money down” sounds like it could be a phrase from an advertisement. Another reason Suyuan was convinced America was a place of opportunity was because her good friend’s daughter had “become instantly famous.” Auntie Lindo’s daughter, Waverly, became a national chess champion when she was nine. Knowing someone whose young daughter became nationally recognized helped reinforce Suyuan’s idea that “you could be anything you wanted to be in America.”
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