One can approach Amy Tan’s “Rules of the Game” from various perspectives in writing a research paper.
One approach is to look at the story strictly from a thematic perspective. Numerous themes emerge from the struggles between mother and daughter, such as the importance and power of invisible strength. Waverly is the typical child who wants everything; her mother teaches her quickly that she will get what she wants if she is quiet, obedient, and does not ask. When Waverly listens and does not whine for candy, her mother purchases a treat for her. However, Waverly also quickly forgets that “strongest wind cannot be seen” when she screams in the middle of the crowded street that her mother is embarrassing. Lindo is hurt and fights back with silence. Waverly is unable to counter her mother’s invisible strength. She does eventually recognize she must learn how to harness the wind as she considers her “next move” at the end of the story.
The story can also be viewed from a technique perspective, as Tan utilizes various literary tools to enliven her story. The chess game is symbolic of the relationship that Waverly has with her mother, and Tan describes the aftermath of their argument in chess terms. Waverly imagines a giant chessboard with her mother as her victorious opponent. “Her black men advanced across the plane…My white pieces screamed as they scurried and fell off the board.” In personifying the chess pieces, Tan uses them to symbolize both the mother’s and daughter’s feelings. The chess match at the end of the story parallels their real-life struggle. In addition, the wind is personified throughout the story, such as when Waverly faces her chess opponents. She imagines the wind “whispered secrets only I could hear” as she repeatedly defeats her opponents. The wind might actually be seen as an important character.
One might also consider looking at the story as a depiction of culture, since Tan juxtaposes American and Chinese cultures. One of the main reasons Lindo and Waverly clash is they come from different worlds. Waverly cannot fully comprehend her mother’s cloaked advice, and Lindo cannot grasp every topic her children discuss. Sometimes when they talk to each other, they are actually having two different conversations, such as when Lindo gives Waverly advice on how to play chess.
It might also be interesting to explore how much of the story relates to Tan’s life. Does she identify with one of the characters? Was her relationship with her mother as combative as the one in the story? Did she feel stuck in between cultures as Waverly does, and how has that feeling changed as she ages? Tan has done many interviews and there are a number of articles written about her, so these questions and others can be answered with a little research.