Two Kinds: The Setting of an American Dream Amy Tan’s short story “Two Kinds” chronicles the childhood memories of Jing-mei, a first generation American citizen, and her mother Suyuan Woo, an immigrant to the states. This account tells of a daughters struggle between her Chinese ancestry and American expectations for success, along with her mother‘s aspirations of greatness for her daughter and Jing-mei‘s battle for her own will. Set in San Francisco in the 1950’s, America was coming off a long bout of war, and coming into a time of great economic prosperity, and the Woo’s hoped for nothing less than the best.
The immigration networks between China and the US had been connected, allowing for a microcosm of Chinese culture in America in Chinatown. Through the use of setting, Tan shows the contradictory relationship of East versus West, and mother versus daughter which ultimately portrays the theme of the mothers’ American dream. During the time of the 1950’s, Chinatowns were set up for those immigrants who were new to the country and who wanted to cling to their traditional Chinese culture and ways, while still adapting to the American life. The San Franciscan Chinatown was a stepping stone for these new citizens to start their families while sticking close to their roots. Suyuan was no exception to this, her Chinese ways of thinking and acting in regards to her family were at the forefront of her actions and ideology, which was only amplified by the close living quarters of so many Chinese-Americans.
These actions and beliefs were often times contradictory to the American ideals which Jing-mei had been exposed to. Jing-mei found herself going to American schools, but living in a traditional Chinese home which often brought about conflict between mother and daughter. Suyuan’s great sense of pride in her upbringing is relayed to her daughter who, she thinks should be taught the same values though they may clash with American principals. She believes that a daughter should be obedient, have a sense of family honor, and take advantage.