Tradition is normally used in connection with culture and to keep a culture healthy and alive, it is important to allow traditions to stay alive as well. However traditions that place restrictions on personal, professional, emotional or spiritual growth tend to have a negative impact on entire humankind and must therefore not be followed. When traditions are not followed, they die a natural death. Bad traditions must not be kept alive either through personal struggle or collective rebellion.
Two Kinds is one story of unproductive traditions that teaches us why some traditions are negative and hence must die. Not all traditions help in keeping a culture alive, some traditions tend to lend bad reputation to a culture and only cause culture degeneration. Two kinds by Amy Tan is one of the most heart-wrenching stories about a girl's difficult relationship with her mother. The sheer transparency of emotions can leave readers in a state of awe as poor Ni Kan suffers from her mother's unreasonable demands. She wants to be a child, she doesn't want to be a "genius" and thus chooses to rebel against an excessively overbearing mother. Despite all her mother's desires, I feel it was Ni Kan who was right in her desire not to be obedient because through personal struggle she was trying to end a bad tradition. Every person has the right to live their lives according to their own wishes and dreams instead of following someone else's instructions all the time. By asserting herself, Ni Kan saved herself from the misery that had been ruining her childhood and could possibly destroy her adolescence as well. Self-assertion is a valuable trait when practiced against tyrannical influences and traditions. The one thing which is quite wrong with parenting today is that children are forced to listen to their parents. Obeying parents at the cost of one's own happiness must never be the shining principle of parenting. It completely destroys a child's personality and may even make them more disruptive as they seek to assert themselves. They can also start thinking that parents do not like them the way they are as Ni Kan says in the story, "Why don't you like me the way I am. I am not a genius." (p. 261) Instead we should teach children to pay attention to their parents' guidance and then use their own minds to make decisions for themselves but unfortunately for Ni Kan, her mother couldn't understand her desire to assert herself. By giving them a chance to make their own decisions, we teach them responsibility and make them more rational and intelligent beings. We can help them build confidence in themselves by respecting their choices. Parents must act like maps that provide the basic guideline of the location but they do not need to push them onto a certain road towards a destination of their choice. Instead they should show children all the possible ways they can explore their talents and then let them choose the direction and the destination. This is one tradition that needs to be inculcated in all cultures and Ni Kan was a rebel who knew that she did not have to follow her mother's dictates because she had all the right to carve her own destiny.
In the same manner, we find another example of negative tradition in the story The Lottery by Shirley...
It initially might appear to communicate no real purpose at first. People of a small town gather to celebrate an annual event called "the lottery." They greet each other cordially as if this is a normal event or maybe even a jovial one. The reader expects the winner of the lottery to win a prize like in an ordinary lottery event but it is only at the end that they realize the pernicious intent of the lottery. The story is rich in symbolism for example the black box represents the darkness and evil nature of a cruel ritual.
In the annual event of this evil lottery, the winner is stoned to death by friends and family for no particular rhyme or reason. Upon closer examination it seems that this story is a comment on the evil nature of traditions and what happens when people blindly follow them. We cannot however comment on the form of tradition the story targets but it is definitely a commentary on how totalitarian nature of some traditions often results in serious oppression of certain sections of the society. In this story, the villagers represent the society and Mr. Hutchison's family represents one section of the society that is targeted in the end. In order to save their own lives, they had agreed to go along with the ritual and as long as it was not them they were willing to follow the tradition. This meant they were safe for one more year and instead of standing up against the tradition, they had reluctantly or nonchalantly agreed to follow it as long as this meant hurting another person and not themselves. The fuss over the black box shows how people had become attached to this symbol of an old cruel tradition. "Mr. Summers spoke frequently to the villagers about making a new box, but no one liked to upset even as much tradition as was represented by the black box" (p. 305). This is a story of pure evil that resides within human beings but indirectly it is also attacking man's complacence and inability to fight for what is right. By avoiding the hard way and fighting for the right, men are actually doing themselves more harm than good. Man doesn't realize that one of these days; he will become a target of his own inaction. So he continues to follow the dictatorial directives of cultures and doesn't take any action until he becomes a victim himself.
Jamaica Kincaid's story "Girl" is closer in meaning and message to Two Kinds as it also shows how a highly demanding mother hurts the confidence and self-esteem of her daughter. In this story however we don't find any dialogue or conversations, it is merely a monologue where a mother directs and instructs her daughter about everything from washing clothes to baking to bullying. It appears like a manual about raising a daughter who herself doesn't have a voice in the entire story except on two occasions when she raises a question and it's met with sharp dismissal. While such behavior from a mother would no longer be tolerated by children today, Kincaid is only trying to show how mothers few decades ago wanted to raise their daughters.
Even though most of her instructions appear like orders and her tone is always harsh, still at times one wonders if some part of this tradition should stay alive. While children can no longer be controlled this way and they must never be subjected to such dictates, still a certain amount of discipline training can be borrowed from this story. This tradition of raising kids with an iron hand is no longer applicable but discipline is always a positive thing when applied in moderation.
The mother in this story is however way beyond moderation, and is always expecting a lot from her daughter. "Wash the white clothes on Monday and put them on the stone heap" (1190) but sadly she refuses to be polite and never uses the word please.
Everyone has had some experience with tradition and while some may have rebelled, most people would succumb to it for various reasons. I remember my mother telling me about the tradition of getting married young in her native country. She was only 17 when she got married and by 29, she had four kids.…
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