How would you describe Waverly's neighborhood in "The Rules of the Game" by Amy Tan?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Waverly lives in San Francisco's Chinatown in a two-bedroom apartment above a Chinese bakery that makes dim sum and pastries. Tan writes, "By daybreak, our flat was heavy with the odor of fried sesame balls and sweet curried chicken crescents." The flavors of the bakery float up to Waverly's apartment. 

The neighborhood is crowded with people of all ages. Down the block from Waverly's apartment there is a playground with slides that have been shined from heavy use. People born in China sit on benches around the playground eating watermelon seeds and giving their husks to pigeons. There are many fascinating stores in the neighborhood, such as the medicine shop and fish market that sells crabs and frogs. There is also a cafe at which tourists are not welcome, as the menu is printed in Chinese. 

It's a neighborhood in which people know each other. On Saturdays, when Waverly accompanies her mother to attend market days, her mother tells everyone about her daughter. This type of bragging annoys Waverly, who wants to escape from her cloistered environment. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Waverly resides in Chinatown San Francisco with her mother and two brothers. The population of Chinatown is comprised of poor Chinese immigrants.  The community is close knit and the streets in Chinatown are busy with numerous business establishments such as the herbal medicine shop, the printer and the fish market, all situated along the same street. Waverly’s family apartment itself is located on top of a bakery. The dark alley and playground with old swings and slides are stationed behind Waverly's family apartment.This description gives a sense of overcrowding.

The neighborhood is filled with items that represent the Chinese culture which the inhabitants of the town have strived to preserve. This rich cultural heritage has become a major tourist attraction. From the architecture with pagoda roofs, the language, temples and customs to the treatment of ailments using traditional herbs all signify cultural preservation. In fact, the insistent use of Chinese language in a restaurant menu has acted to repel tourists visiting the town.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Waverly’s neighborhood is in San Francisco’s Chinatown. The family occupies a two-bedroom flat above a bakery on Waverly Place, the street that inspired Waverly’s name. Waverly and her brothers enjoy playing in the alley behind their building.

At the end of our two-block alley was a small sandlot playground with swings and slides well-shined down the middle with use. …The best playground, however, was the dark alley itself.

Also in the neighborhood is a shop that sells medicinal herbs, a printer’s shop, and a fish market. There is also a small restaurant that tourists stay away from because the menu is printed only in Chinese. At the end of the alley is the First Chinese Baptist Church, where Waverly’s brother got his chess set at the Christmas party.

In the beginning of the story, Waverly introduces us simultaneously to Chinese culture and to her neighborhood. We learn about Waverly’s mother, about how the shopkeepers feel, and about how the people of Chinatown feel about tourists. This gives us a better understanding of the role chess will play in Waverly’s life and in the neighborhood.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial