The short story “optimists” by Richard Ford tells a recall of experience of the character Frank when he was 15-years old. In the story, Frank tells of an incident that changed their life as a family for good when his father, Roy killed a man on their home and in their presence and was sentenced to jail. The story narrates that two of Frank’s mother’s friends, a couple; Penny and Boyd, had come over to p[lay while Frank’s father Roy was at work when he returned after an incidence where his colleagues were run over by a van. As Roy narrated the incident, Boyd was judgmental towards Roy’s reaction in the incident which caused a conflict that led to Roy hitting Boyd with a fist to his death. Roy was arrested and imprisoned for five months after which he divorced Frank’s mother and Frank lied and joined the army at the age of 15 to run away from home. Since then, Frank runs into his mother at the supermarket 28 years later who explains that she was never in love with Boyd.
The story “Two Kinds” by Amy Tan tells the story of Chinese immigrants into the US, a mother Suyaun and her daughter Jing-mei. Suyuan believes that America is a land of possibilities and that her daughter Jing-mei can become an expert at something that will make her great. The story showcases the difficult relationship between the daughter and her mother since they hold different standpoint regarding life. Suyuan is determined to make her daughter Jing-Mei a prodigy and thus has her trying to exploit her skills beyond normal to genius. Jing-mei is however not into becoming a prodigy especially after she is failing in the many possible prodigies her mother has her try. Jing-mei detests her mother’s vision for her to appoint where she becomes rebellious. This paper looks at two characters one from each story; Roy from “Optimists” and Suyan form “Two Kinds” and compares them focusing on the similarities an the differences of the characters in their roles and contexts in the two stories.
Roy and Suyan have some common characteristics in their nature in their different context. They are both optimists, hardworking and caring and motivational to their children. Roy is an optimistic father and husband who despite the challenges that prevail sees hope in the situation. For instance, during bad times at the railroad where Troy worked, job security was fragile with work hours per worker being reduced to avoid having to lay off some workers. Roy, however, knew that ultimately some works would have to be laid off and the youngest in the trade would be among the first to be dismissed. Roy was among the youngest works at the railroad a though he understood the insecurity in his position, he held the position that the management would do something for them to assist them at work and though it might not be sufficient it still got them going which was a very optimistic position given the circumstances (Ford,2). Similarly, Suyan held on to the belief that her daughter would become a prodigy at something despite Jing-mei failing over and over and not showing any interest. Suyan started training Jing-Mei from retaining knowledge about the capitals of the United States, complex mathematical calculations to being a pianist and even held on to optimism when Jing-mei failed in a performance in church too long after Jing-=Mei had given up on playing the guitar by giving her the piano at her 13th birthday (Tan, 2-4). Both Roy and Suyan were hardworking parents with Roy working in a complex locomotive industry and Suyan offering cleaning services to feed their families and provide for their kids. Also, the parents cared for their children and wanted the best for their children regardless of the approaches used. Roy kills Boyd in what he tells Frank later that he all he wanted was for them to be happy and Suyan pushes Jing-mei too hard but with her best interests at heart.
The characters Roy and Suyan are also significantly different. Roy gives up the optimism eventually when he comes from prison and divorces Frank’s mother and ends up drinking, smoking and even accused to have been seen with a weapon. The deterioration and habits indicate a man who has given up on life and optimism and stopped caring about life and the things that used to matter to him. Since the divorce and Frank leaving for the army, for over twenty-five years, Frank and his mother do not speak and have never met with Roy. The change in behavior illustrates a man who has given up on his previously hopeful and optimistic nature. Contrary to Roy, Suyan does not give up even in the face of the toughest tragedy, Her coming to the United States after losing her twins and her first husband and building a new family is a clear indication of the persistence. Suyan does not stop believing that her daughter Jing-mei would be a prodigy especially in playing the guitar even after Jing abandons her classes and attempts to learn the piano to the point of being rebellious and brutal to her as her mother over the pressure to learn.
In conclusion, Roy and Suyan play critical roles that are similar to some extent and different in another in the different stories. They are both parents who are optimistic of their children and their families even in most of the trials. They work hard and motivate their children to be hopeful and optimistic. However, the fate of the two characters differs in that Roy appears to give up the optimism at the end of the story by giving up his family and turning to drinking. Suyan, on the other hand, remains optimist to her death as Jing-mei acknowledges at the end of the story as she sends someone to clean the piano at her mother’s house years after her death.