In the short stories “A Family Supper” by Kazuo Ishiguro and “Two Kinds” by Amy Tan both illustrates the complexity between traditional values and modern values through the the characterization of the main characters.
The setting of “A Family Supper” is Tokyo, Japan in the Kamakura district. Back then Kamakura was the seat of Shogunate (military dictatorship), leading those who comes from a place infused with strictness and tradition. On the other hand, the setting of “Two Kinds” is in San Francisco, during 1950-60s when many working class Chineses immigrants have arrived in the States, believing that America is the “great land of opportunities”.
Upon the narrator’s homecoming, the father suggests that “ we’ll eat as soon as Kikuko arrives”, it is something that Japanese people do, to wait and eat as a whole family and this quote by his father demonstrates how interdependent the father’s Japanese morals are. When referring to Samurais, Samurais are categorized as one of the high classes in the Japanese culture – and with that, one of the characteristics that characterizes them is that they hold a lot of pride and will not tolerate for any disgrace.
Thus, by referring the family as pure-samurai blood, symbolizes the idea of pride that runs in the family – this symbolism will prove to be very important that solves one of the mysteries in the text. When the son asked the father if taking away the lives of the entire family just for “pride” was the wrong thing to do, the father answered, “Why, of course. Do you see it otherwise?” Though some may argue that what one say may not necessarily reflect the inner thoughts of oneself,Similar to the characterization of the father in Ishiguro’s story, Tan uses the characterization of a stereotypical mother in “Two kinds” to convey the traditional value she has towards her daughter.
The mother is a typical mother of a Chinese family who believes that America is a land of opportunity where anything is possible. She sets a high expectation that her daughter will be successful as a prodigy. “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” as she had the false expectation that “[people] could be anything [they] needed to be in America” driven the belief system of the American dream, where “things could show signs of improvement in such huge numbers of ways”.Jing Mei’s mother emphatic character is additionally created through Tan’s utilization of dialogue to depict her as a ‘tiger mother’ as she is exemplified to trust her little girl “could be a prodigy as well” This state of mind of continually ‘to be the best’ could ordinarily become realistic because of the asian background of a stereotypical tiger mom.
The narrator’s sister, Kikuko tends to be a completely opposite side of the narrator’s father as she turns out to be a more modernized character. Kikuko starts to have a conversation with the narrator and tells him that she has a boyfriend, back then after the WWII having a boyfriend in a conservative Japanese culture is not a prevalent thing to do.
Later on Kikuo starts talking about smoking and how she has taken up smoking in order to look more western and trying to get herself out of the old Japanese tradition. Kikuo feels restricted and thinks it would be better for her to go to America. At the same time the narrator is stuck in dilemma between the two sides, but therefore there are both negative and positive sides of these choices, the narrator claims that the reason he doesn’t’ want to stay in Japan is because he disagrees with the immoderate punishments that the Japanese pay for dishonor. But having a life in America, he knows the injustices that it’s capable of.
Through the characterization of Jing Mei, Tan illustrates a young girl’s hard work and determination to make her mother proud. However, it seems like the more she tries the more she pushes herself away to be the one she wants to be. Although she used to believe that by obeying instructions from the elders will lead her to become “perfect”. She soon realizes that she will never be a genius or the daughter that her mom expects her to be as she values to be satisfied with her untalented self. In the end Jing Mei’s mother learns that America offers great opportunity for those to achieve wealth and become successful in life, but it does not transform a human being into a prodigy.
Through the characterization that Ishiguro and Tan uses to convey the message of complexity between tradition and modern values, it’s essential to note that oftentimes different generations may value different things that may lead to disagreements. It is our job to understand and realize the importance of values that existed inside every generations and to compromise those values in order to live a happy life.