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Rules of the Game

by Amy Tan

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What are three kinds of conflict in "Rules of the Game"?

Three kinds of conflict in "Rules of the Game" are the conflict between Waverly and her mother, Lindo, the conflict between first-generation immigrants and their children, and the conflict between Waverly's enjoyment of chess and the demands placed upon her to win by Lindo.

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The first type of conflict that I would mention is the conflict of the gender rules that Waverly's mother, Lindo, advocates. As children, Waverly's brothers are free to do whatever they like and pursue their interests, such as chess. Waverly, on the other hand, is a girl and is therefore required to do chores around the house.

Another type of conflict that young Waverly encounters is power struggles with her mother. These can be well summed up in the salted plums incident. Her mother's way of disciplining her is to deny her the salted plums that she so badly wants, purely because she was begging for them and didn't want to take no for an answer. She then realized what was expected of her if she wanted plums, and her silence gets rewarded with plums. This type of covert conflict is one example of the many power struggles that exist between mother and daughter in this family.

The final type of conflict that I will mention is the one that arises as a result of Waverly's phenomenal success in local chess competitions. While Waverly sees these successes as her own, her mother sees them as the family's successes in accordance with Chinese culture. This conflict eventually leads to Waverly briefly running away and having to return to the silent treatment from her mother.

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The main conflict in “Rules of the Game” is undoubtedly that between Waverly and her mother, Lindo. Lindo has got it into her head that Waverly will become a child chess prodigy. Though Waverly enjoys playing the game, she doesn't want that for herself. She's just happy playing the game for fun. Yet Lindo insists that Waverly practice for hours on end in order to enter competitions, which she's expected to win and win well.

This specific conflict between mother and daughter is closely related to the intergenerational conflict often seen in immigrant families. Culturally, Waverly is more American than Chinese and so doesn't feel the same way about traditional Chinese values as her mother, who was born and raised in China.

Lindo believes that it's important for people to work hard and set goals for themselves that they always strive to achieve. But Waverly's just a kid; she just wants to lead the normal life of a child and have fun. This clash of values inevitably places a considerable strain on the relationship between mother and daughter.

Finally, we have the conflict within Waverly over her relationship to the game of chess. Initially, Waverly really enjoys playing the game. As we've already seen, to her it's a bit of fun, nothing more. But the more pressure her mother puts on her young shoulders to be a child chess prodigy, the more she comes to see chess as an unpleasant chore. It becomes increasingly difficult for her to gain any enjoyment out of a game that once brought her so much pleasure.

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A conflict is a struggle between opposing forces.  It can be external or internal.  An...

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internal conflict is a struggle a character has with his or her self.  An external conflict is a struggle a character has with an outside force, such as another character, or with society.

An example of an external conflict in this story is the conflict between Waverly and her mother.  Waverly struggles against her mother’s expectations for her.  She wants to play chess because she enjoys it, and is good at it, but her mother always wants her to do better.

My mother placed my first trophy next to a new plastic chess set that the neighborhood Tao society had given to me. As she wiped each piece with a soft cloth, she said, "Next time win more, lose less."

The conflict between Waverly and her mother pushes her to improve, but it also makes her resent chess.  Because of this, she loses something she enjoys.  The fight with her mother causes her to give up chess.

Internal conflicts in the story usually involve Waverly’s reaction to her mother’s overbearing nature. 

But I found it difficult to concentrate at home. My mother had a habit of standing over me while I plotted out my games. I think she thought of herself as my protective ally.  

An internal conflict is when the character struggles against him or herself, often as a result of an external conflict with another character.  It could be because the character has a decision to make.  In this case, Waverly has to decide how to react to her mother.  She finally decides to stand up for herself.

Another conflict is going on here, and it is a character vs. society conflict many immigrants face.  Waverly’s mother is not fighting her daughter, not really.  She is fighting the system.  She feels that her daughter will be more successful if she is strong.

I was six when my mother taught me the art of invisible strength. It was a strategy for winning arguments, respect from others, and eventually, though neither of us knew it at the time, chess games.

Waverly's mother is trying to get her to understand that she needs to be strong and fight for herself.  She hopes that if she learns this she will be successful in life, because being an immigrant is hard, but America is the land of opportunity.

Although this is a story about conflict, especially conflict between mother and daughter and between daughter and self, it is really about the American dream.  Waverly has high hopes for the future, but so does her mother.  Unfortunately, they do not really agree.

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