At the beginning of the short story, Waverly mentions that her mother taught her the art of invisible strength, which is a strategy for winning arguments and respect from others. When Waverly was a child, she recalls, she cried in the store because she could not have a bag of salted plums. When Waverly cried aloud, her mother scolded her and told her to bite her tongue. That night, Waverly's mother told her,
Wise guy, he not go against wind. In Chinese we say, Come from South, blow with wind-poom!—North will follow. Strongest wind cannot be seen (Tan, 1).
The next day, Waverly's mother entered the store and secretly stole a bag of salted plums without paying for them. Waverly's mother is a Chinese immigrant, who learns to remain quiet and subtly manipulate others until she can attain what she desires. Her lesson regarding the art of invisible strength teaches Waverly the importance of appearing timid and quiet while plotting secretly to gain whatever she desires. Later on in life, Waverly uses the art of invisible strength to trick and manipulate her chess opponents into making wrong moves, which she capitalizes on to win matches.