Peoplehave different motivations in their lives, and they set objectives tomake their lives better. Occasionally, people compel others to followtheir patterns in life, and this is received with mixed feelings andskepticism particularly by those with antagonistic objectives.Parents are the primary contributors to the wellbeing of theirchildren, and they perform different rules to forge a successful pathfor them. However, some of the guardians set unrealistic goals fortheir children to compel them to become outstanding withoutconsidering the capabilities that the children have. Althoughmaterialism can propagate people to their success, it can put oneinto a frustrating path because it makes one susceptible tooverlooking genuine interests.
TwoKinds is one of the prime examples of an account depicting a parentwho is obsessed with materialism that leads her to overlook theinterest of her daughter. This essay will discuss the theme ofmaterialism by demonstrating how the narrator fell victim of hermother’s materialistic approach to their life in America and thenumerous talents she was exposed to despite her lacking interest inmost of them.
First,the narrator’s mother is obsessed with settling in the UnitedStates, and she forgets about everything that she lost in China.According to the narrator, they had lost their property, siblings andtheir father. However her mother believes that the United States is aland of opportunities when people could become anything they wanted.Her mother’s excitement and materialistic approach to life in theUnited States is evident when she states that, “My mother believedyou could be anything you wanted to be in America. You could open arestaurant. You could work for the government and get a goodretirement. You could buy a house with almost no money down. Youcould become rich. You could become instantly famous” (Tan 131).
Theattitude towards wealth and fame sets her into a frantic race ofensuring that her daughter takes advantage of all the opportunitiesthat appear promising. This not only makes her daughter’s lifemiserable but also demotivates her since she is forced to engage inactivities which she is not talented in. In their book, The NewMaterialism, Simms and Potts revive Karl Max advice that the thematicsteps that people take towards accumulation of wealth without adefined path lead to dissatisfaction that instigates a spiral racefor palaces and baubles (132).
AmyTan also depicts the theme of materialism in her story bydemonstrating the narrator’s mother “want it all” approachwhile in the United States. First, she takes the narrator to a beautyschool where she is put under the watch of an inexperienced studentwho could not cut the cloth correctly. When the instructor mentionsthat there is a new celebrity called Peter Pans, she wants herdaughter to look like him, and she has her hair trimmed. By getting aboy’s appearance, the mother believes that her daughter willresemble the young celebrities in the Sullivan TV show (Tan 134).
Evenbefore the idea of Peter Pan sets in, she responds by enrolling herdaughter for piano lessons after watching a young Chinese girl playthe instrument on the TV. Unfortunately, the retired piano teacher isold and offers ineffective lessons that could not could her daughterinto the girl she had in mind. Aunt Lindo’s daughter outstandingperformance and trophies also make the narrator’s mother enlist herfor performance in the social club to impress those in her socialcircles and possibly become famous and amass wealth. She isdisappointed when the narrator performs unsatisfactorily (Tan 137).
Thenarrator`s mother is overwhelmed by the endless opportunities in theUnited States, and this affects her consistency. When there are somany possible options for success, people always blinded by theseemingly obvious break-through and they become vulnerable to tryingout numerous thing without benefiting from them(Mulhern12). She is in a situation that Simms and Potts refer to as the“hedonic treadmill” that is characterized with a high pitchedtriumph of hope that surpasses the experience that people have on agiven undertaking (7).
Thetendency results in a misinformed idea that satisfaction only makesindividuals to be disappointed when their outcomes fall short oftheir expectations. The narrator’s mother had not bothered to checkon the progress of her daughter’s piano skills, but she wanted herto fast track fame and emulate other children of her age who weremaking it in different spheres of life. To her disappointment, thepiano teacher had not done a considerable job, and the audience didnot applaud her daughter.
Thedesire for fame and resources puts mother and daughter onantagonistic paths. The narrator does not find pleasure in theactivities that her mother wants her to carry out, possibly becausethey have not been agreed upon. The idea that her mother has about agenius Chinese girl in American does not auger well with thenarrator. When she is taken for piano lessons, she deliberately hitsthe wrong keys after noting that he teacher was too slow to read andfollow her playing (Tan 143). Apparently, she attended the lessons toimpress her mother and avoid reproach. Her unwillingness to commitherself to the path forged by her mother towards fame becomes evidentwhen she plays the piano awfully inform of an audience.
Hermother believes that she was not trying enough and when she remindsher to attend her lessons later, she revolts and the two engage in anargument that makes the narrator wish that she were dead or born in adifferent family. As Simms and Potts observe, materialistic valuesand tendencies correlate with aggression and breeds conflict. Thenarrator becomes exhausted of being pushed around and forced toembrace different talents in which she does not have interest.
TheAmerica of 1950 should provide the narrator with an opportunity toexplore the world and enjoy the numerous opportunities that wouldhave been of interest to her. The country was in an accelerated eraof industrial development and changes in social practices(Berryand Wheeler 13). Although her mother wanted the narrator to benefitfrom the opportunities, she did not have experience in what couldwork out for her daughter. Her materialistic approach led her tosettle for anything that came her way.
HerChinese attitude of controlling children did not change even afterarriving in the United States where the autonomy of an individual washighly respected. She wants her daughter to be like a traditionalChinese girl who is obedient to her parents. However, the narratorknows that she is in a new environment and she wants to break awayfrom her mother’s controlling behavior.
Tan’sstory also demonstrates how the strife to achieve fame and resourcescan weaken the bonds in relationships and consequently theirmotivation. The disagreement between the narrator and her mothermakes her to deliberately fail in the activities that her motherexpected her to become outstanding. When she returns home years laterafter the demise of her mother, she sits at the piano and tries toplay the songs that she had hated as a little girl. She is amazed athow well she could remember the keys.
Surprisingly,she realizes that the two songs resembled each other, something thatshe could not make out when she was being forced to play them. Whendoing something out of will, one takes a personal responsibility tolearn and become better and the narrator discovered that she couldactually played the songs if she had the motivation. She even repairsthe piano that had been the source of conflict in the family.
Conclusively,while materialism can promulgate people to their success, it can putone into an exasperating quest because it makes one vulnerable toignoring genuine interests in life to run after those that seem moredesirable. Amy Tan demonstrates how the quest to amass resources andfame without a properly defined path leads to a parent exerting unduepressure on her daughter while ignoring her interests. She placesherself on a hedonic treadmill and becomes disappointed when thenarrator fails to become outstanding. She starts by enrolling herdaughter in a beauty college and then gets an idea of Peter Pan. Shethen sees a young girl playing the piano skillfully on the TV anddecides that the narrator should follow suit. The family could havetaken advantage of the numerous opportunities in in the Americaneconomy and through agreement indulge in a well-defined path togreatness. The piece of work can offer invaluable information toparents and guardians who attach value to acquiring resources throughan authoritarian yet wavering approach.
Berry,Brian JL, and James Wheeler. Urbangeography in America, 1950-2000: paradigms and personalities.New York: Routledge, 2014. Print.
Mulhern,Francis. ContemporaryMarxist literary criticism.New York: Routledge, 2014. Print.
Simms,Andrew and Potts Ruth. The New Materialism: How our relationship withthe material world can change for the better, n.d. print.
Tan,Amy. "Two kinds." Thejoy luck club(1989): 132-48. Print.