Two Kinds of Girls


A person spends most of their developing years under the guidance of their parents or guardians.
They affect how we think, how we feel, and how we act. These are among the people who hold the
greatest influence. Amy Tan’s "Two Kinds" and Jamaica Kincaid’s "Girl" both deal with the relationship
between a young girl and the guiding force in her life. Amy Tan tells of a mother\'s expectation for her
daughter to be a child prodigy. Jamaica Kincaid tells of an unknown person describing to a girl how to be
a "good" girl. Both essays illustrate an authority figure that has expectations for a young female and why
and how those expectations will come about.

As young children growing up without a care in the world, we cannot comprehend why authority
figures dictate how we should behave. In "Two Kinds", the daughter is expected to be a child prodigy
because her mother believes "you can be anything you want in America". The mother sees other children
with amazing talents and thinks her child could be just as talented, if not more so. She continually places
pressure on her daughter to be some kind of prodigy. The daughter is expected to be a great beauty with
unmatched dance abilities, an untapped wealth of useless information, and piano-playing skills like no
other. In "Girl", the expectations are much lower, but just as stringent. The girl is expected to do a
myriad of chores and to become a "lady". She is advised on how she should act and how she can avoid
being a "slut".

In "Two Kinds", the mother has high hopes; she believes a person can be anything they want in
America and she wants a daughter who excels in some area. All of the mother’s hopes lay on the
daughter. Her hopes are bolstered by stories about remarkable children with incredible talents. If they
can succeed are such a young age, surely her child can as well. The mother wants her daughter to be the
best she can be, but she has unrealistic expectations. The girl in Jamaica Kincaid’s essays is not being
held to such high hopes and dreams. The expectations placed on her are not as high, but are equally
unforgiving. Her authority figure wants her to be the perfect "traditional" girl. She is expected to cook,
clean, iron, and not assert her independence.



Children, though, are naturally independent and free-willed. For the authority figures to have
their way, the girls must be obedient. Obedience and denigration are the methods in which these
expectations are supposed to met. In "Two Kinds", the mother states, "Only one kind of daughter can live
in this house--obedient daughter!" The daughter does not want to live up to outside expectations, but she
does not want to disappoint her mother; part of her feels obligated to be loyal. The mother compares the
daughter to other children, which makes the daughter feel worthless. The mother talks about a three-year-
old who knows the capital of all the states. She forces the daughter to watch television shows featuring
talented youngsters. She implies her daughter is not as good as the other children. In "Girl", the girl is
given two choices – be a girl or be a slut. Essentially, she is being told what she must do; there is no room
for debate. In between being told what to do, though, the authority figure also reminds her she could well
be on her way to becoming a slut.

In both essays, the girls come full circle. They both go through a period of being told what to be
and what to do. Both girls resent the pressure and expectations put on them in their adolescence, but in
the end, they choose paths that lead back to their beginnings. Amy Tan’s girl spends a good portion of
her youth hating practicing piano. As an adult, she plays an entire piece of music and is marveled by the
beauty of it. In some respects, she becomes the child her mother wanted. Jamaica Kincaid’s girl spends a
good portion of her youth protesting the label of "slut" placed upon her. In the conclusion, she becomes
the kind of woman