What is the primary conflict occurring in this excerpt? --- One day after we left a shop I said under my breath, “I wish you wouldn’t do that, telling everybody I’m your daughter.” My...
What is the primary conflict occurring in this excerpt?
One day after we left a shop I said under my breath, “I wish you wouldn’t do that, telling everybody I’m your daughter.” My mother stopped walking. Crowds of people with heavy bags pushed past us on the sidewalk, bumping into first one shoulder, then another.
“Aiii-ya. So shame be with mother?” She grasped my hand even tighter as she glared at me.
I looked down. “It’s not that, it’s just so obvious. It’s just so embarrassing.”
“Embarrass you be my daughter?” Her voice was cracking with anger.
“That’s not what I meant. That’s not what I said.”
“What you say?”
I knew it was a mistake to say anything more, but I heard my voice speaking, “Why do you have to use me to show off? If you want to show off, then why don’t you learn to play chess?”
My mother’s eyes turned into dangerous black slits. She had no words for me, just sharp silence.
In this excerpt from "Rules of the Game," Waverly, the daughter, tells her mother not to introduce her to others or brag about her when they go around Chinatown shopping. Waverly has won many concessions from her family because she is a chess prodigy, and they allow her certain freedoms. She doesn't have to share a bedroom with her brothers, and she doesn't have to finish her food if she doesn't want to. Waverly becomes uncharacteristically independent for a Chinese girl because she is a chess champion. However, shopping with her mother is her one duty, and, in this passage, Waverly is resisting it. The essential conflict is that her mother sees Waverly's chess playing as a way to bring honor to the family, while Waverly sees it as a way to distance herself from her family and become more independent. Waverly regards chess as an independent pursuit, while her mother regards it as part of the family's interaction and dynamic.
This is a great question, as it gets to the heart of the story. The conflict here is twofold and it is hard to determine what is more primary.
First, we see a conflict between mother and daughter. The mother here wants to boast about her daughter. This gives her a sense of pride. Many parents are like this. The problem is that Waverly wants to be independent. She does not want to be seen as a daughter of someone. She wants to be seen as Waverly. Hence, the conflict is one of independence.
Second, we also see a clashing of cultures. In an Asian culture, individualism is not prized too much. What is more important is the family. This is where Waverly's mother is coming from. However, Waverly is coming from an American point of view. So, we see a conflict between traditional Chinese culture and American individualism.