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The Short List: Two Kinds, Amy Tan

Amy Tan
Amy Tan
Public Domain

The Short List is a collection of reviews and critical responses to short fiction. All titles reviewed are suggested for a quick, quality read. Was your New Year's Resolution to read more engaging literature? Start your search here.

Two Kinds, Amy Tan

Amy Tan writes this story in the first person, characterizing a woman who is reflecting upon her childhood through her thoughts. This story could easily be autobiographical, and I think that’s the beauty of it. First person writing can be used to blur the line that designates a piece as fiction, pushing it ever closer to the place where we accept a thing as reality. Because we are allowed to accept the narrator as the character, and that character again as a real person talking directly to us, we are disposed not only to believing whatever the character has to say, but we also immediately empathize with her. It is through this immediately established link that Tan is then able to introduce an idea.

The driving force in this story is the idea that our choices have much more influence than we realize. Tan allows us to watch the events unfold through the eyes of her narrator, and in doing so, allows us to experience by proxy such unintended results; I think that this leaves us closer to the plot movements, as though we are somehow attached to the narrator. Because we feel involved, our emotional reaction to Tan’s story is greatly increased. As the narrator feels and experiences anything, we also feel and experience it. The effectiveness of first person narration, then, is showcased in Amy Tan’s writing, and we are left to question the implications of choosing to write in third person, and the unintended consequences.