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Benjamin Franklin once said “Whatever is begun in anger ends in shame. ” meaning at the time, an act of anger might seem justified, but in the end you will only bring shame to yourself or your loved one. In the short stories “Two kinds” by Amy Tan and “Jealous husband returns in form of parrot” by Robert Olen Butler, Relationship Conflict is the main theme. Conflicts always start with anger from both ends; in “Two kinds” Jing-mei is angry at her mother and the mother is equally angry, and similarly in “Jealous husband returns in form of parrot” the husband is angry at his wife, and vice versa.
But to an angry conflict there is another side, and that is acceptance, the acceptance could be of the other person or the situation in which they are. In “Jealous husband returns in form of parrot” the husband accepts the situation that he is currently in, while in “Two kinds” Jing-mei accepts her mother and herself for who she is.
Conflict broken down into two smaller themes: first anger of someone, something, themselves, then acceptance of a person, or a situation. In the short story “Two kinds”, Anger is a reoccurring theme. Jing-mei the narrator of the story, displays anger towards her mother and also herself.
The anger she shows towards her mother stems from the burden of expectations that Jing-mei is to fulfill “Why don’t you like me the way I am? I’m not a genius!” (Tan 602).
Jing-mei does not want to change herself to be a prodigy, but the mother refuses to listen. Anger towards her mother in situations such as the one stated before is often seen throughout the story, but anger towards herself is scarcely seen as well. There is a moment in the story when Jing-mei is angry at herself, because she only saw disappointment in her mother’s face “I saw only my face staring back-and that it would always be this ordinary face-I began to cry.Such a sad,ugly girl! ” (Tan 600).
After which she claws at the mirror, as to somehow attack her disappointment in anger. Similarly in “Jealous husband returns in form of parrot” anger is also prevalent throughout the story. The husband was angry at his cheating wife throughout his whole life, and he was sure that his wife was cheating with multiple men “I get this restlessness back in my tail, a burning thrashing feeling, and it’s like all the times when I was sure there was a man naked with my wife. ” (Butler 104). The husband remains angry at his cheating wife even though he is no longer a man.
Just like Jing-mei, the husband was angry at himself as well “I felt like a damn fool whenever I actually said anything about this kind of feeling and she looked at me like she could start hating me real easy” (Butler 105). He is referring to a memory when he locked himself in the bathroom, so he would not lash out in anger against his wife’s stories. However, there are contrasting scenes of anger in the two stories. While it is true that both narrators in both stories are angry at their loved ones, In “two kinds”, Jing-mei clearly states her anger to her mother “No!I said, and now I felt stronger, as if my true self had finally emerged. So this was what had been inside me all along… No! I’ won’t! I screamed” (Tan 606).
Knowing that she can get a scolding or even a beating for her angry words, Jing-mei still voices her anger towards her mother who is trying to force Jing-mei into playing the piano. Meanwhile in “Jealous husband returns as parrot”, the husband does not voice his anger or even a peep of disagreement to his wife “I locked myself in the bathroom because I couldn’t rage about this anymore…My goal was to hold my tongue about half the time. (Butler 105).
The contrast is where, Jing-mei voices her anger knowing she will hurt her mother, while the husband does not voice his anger knowing he will not hurt his wife. There is always calm after the storm, in this case after the anger there is acceptance. There is acceptance of how things turned out or how things will turn out. In “Two Kinds”, Jing-mei gets a form of resolve from her mother, “She offered to give me the piano, for my thirtieth birthday. I had not played in all those years. I saw the offer as a sign of forgiveness, a tremendous burden removed. ” (Tan 607).
The piano symbolizes the struggle and the pain of both Jing-mei and her mother, where Jing-mei had to go through hours of torturous prodigy testing, and where her mother spent equal amount of her time to make Jing-mei have an easier life than she did. Especially after the failed talent show at the church, the piano became a piece of shame for Jing-mei up until the mother decides to give the piano to her. There is also an acceptance of her life, the way it turned out to be. After Jing-mei’s mother passes away, she decides to play the piano that has brought her so much grief before.
Ironically she goes back to play the piece “Pleading child”, the same one that was played so miserably at the talent show, except this time Jing-mei finds an interesting connection “And for the first time, or so it seemed, I noticed the piece on the right side. It was called “Perfectly Contented. ” (Tan 608). Both songs turn out to be two halves of the same song. Jing-mei accepts that she was the “pleading child” at a young age, pleading to her mother to not change her, and now Jing-mei is the “Perfectly Contented”, perfectly content that she hasn’t changed.
Similarly acceptance is present in “Jealous husband returns in form of parrot” The acceptance is of that, no matter what the husband did as a human, or currently does as a parrot, is not going to change his wife. The husband never accepted the way his wife as who she is, weather she was going out to the mall for some shopping or she was seeing a man other than her thought-to-be deceased husband. The husband accepts that it’s time to move on; instead of chasing someone that does not want him anymore “I can fly there and think of things to do about all this.But I do not…I will fly now. Even though I know there is something between me and that place where I can be free of all these feelings, I will fly. ” (Butler 108).
Before, the husband as a parrot would’ve flown to the room where his wife is getting banged, and tried to maybe peck the guy’s nuts off, but instead he chooses to accept what is going on, and to accept that random guys are going to sleep with her no matter how much he furrows his eyebrows by himself in the bathroom as a man, or thrash around and throw seeds as a parrot.
In the end, relationship conflict is a product of anger and acceptance. Anger can be seen in between family members, where Jing-mei expresses her dislike of being different to her mother and where her mother hates that her daughter does not try hard enough. Anger can also be seen in between husband and spouse, where the husband is angry at his wife for cheating, and angrier at himself for not saying anything. But relationship conflicts does not just end with anger towards each other, instead acceptance is reached by the former angry duo.
They soon realize that staying angry is not going to change a hair on the other person. This is most well shown when the piano is given as a gift of forgiveness to Jing-mei from her mother: The piano symbolizes a heavy burden before but after it is given as a gift, it’s an end to a conflict. Likewise, acceptance is shown by the husband although less promptly recognizable. The last paragraph in the short story where the husband denies himself the proof of his cheating wife shows acceptance of his situation.
The husband realizes he cannot change what his wife had done nor can he change what she does now. I had a similar relationship conflict like Jing-mei in “two kinds”; my mother demanded that I play the piano at a young age, just like Jing-mei I lashed out in anger to show her that no, I don’t want to be like Beethoven when I grow up. I grew up and accepted just like Jing-mei, that maybe my mom did it all for my goodness sake. Only difference between me and Jing-mei in our childhood? My mother is still alive to hear me apologize.
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