This piece of writing has excellent sensory details that really engage the reader's senses. This is one of my favorite examples:
In the early morning, when the alley was still quiet, I could smell fragrant red beans as they were cooked down to a pasty sweetness. By daybreak, our flat was heavy with the odor of fried sesame balls and sweet curried chicken crescents. From my bed, I could listen as my father got ready for work, then locked the door behind him, one-two-three clicks.
These are the smells and sounds of the narrator's childhood, and there is routine in these familiar sounds and smells. These details convey the rich smells which envelop the young girl in her two-bedroom flat which rests over a Chinese bakery and the finality of her father's departure from that little flat each morning as he left for work.
Another example is located later as the narrator describes the process of getting ready for school:
Each morning before school, my mother would twist and yank on my thick black hair until she had formed two tightly wound pigtails. One day, as she struggled to weave a hard-toothed comb through my disobedient hair, I had a sly thought.
The visual details of this process demonstrate the rigor with which the Waverly's mother tackles her daughter's hair each morning. The final product is a tight hair style, capable of lasting through her daughter's school day. Waverley's hair reflects her own spirit, a bit wild and untamed.
Later, Waverly has the opportunity to choose a Christmas gift at the First Chinese Baptist Church. She describes the method behind selecting a wrapped gift:
As I peered into the sack, I quickly fingered the remaining presents, testing their weight, imagining what they contained. I chose a heavy, compact one that was wrapped in shiny silver foil and a red satin ribbon. It was a twelve-pack of Life Savers and I spent the rest of the party arranging and rearranging the candy tubes in the order of my favorites.
These sensory details bring to life the sights and sounds of Christmas, familiar details for many readers. These details connect the reader to a familiar joy of eager anticipation, the wrapping paper and ribbons conjuring warm memories of childhood.
Amy Tan uses sensory details and imagery to give the reader a sense of what it is like for Waverly to grow up in Chinatown in San Francisco. For example, the author writes:
We lived on Waverly Place, in a warm, clean, two-bedroom flat that sat above a small Chinese bakery specializing in steamed pastries and dim sum. In the early morning, when the alley was still quiet, I could smell fragrant red beans as they were cooked down to a pasty sweetness. By daybreak, our flat was heavy with the odor of fried sesame balls and sweet curried chicken crescents.
This example includes details that help the reader imagine the way Waverly's surroundings smell. The sensory details provided allow the reader to experience what it is like to walk down Waverly's street or be in her apartment, in which delicious smells of baking Chinese delicacies waft all day.
Later, the author provides the following sensory details in a description of how Waverly's forceful mother grooms her daughter's hair: "She wetted her palm and smoothed the hair above my ear, then pushed the pin in so that it nicked sharply against my scalp." These details help the reader imagine the way Waverly feels as her mother is helping her with her hair, and the details appeal to the reader's sense of touch. The imagery in this passage helps the reader really put him or herself in Waverly's shoes and understand how forceful the mother can be towards her daughter.
"Rules of the Game" is rich in sensory detail; we can find imagery in nearly every paragraph. Let's check out some of the most masterful examples.
In the beginning of the story, Waverly describes her neighborhood setting, detailing the creatures both living and dead that were for sale:
"On less crowded market days, we would inspect the crates of live frogs and crabs which we were warned not to poke, boxes of dried cuttlefish, and row upon row of iced prawns, squid, and slippery fish. The sanddabs made me shiver each time; their eyes lay on one flattened side and reminded me of my mother’s story of a careless girl who ran into a crowded street and was crushed by a cab."
This imagery gives us a richly detailed view of what Waverly sees as she walks through the market, but it also hints toward the general theme of confinement and the need for escape ("crates," "boxes," "eyes lay on one flattened side... [like] a careless girl who ran into a crowded street and was crushed"). In particular, the image of the sanddab prepares us for the final scene in which Waverly sees herself in the fish's body on the dinner table, both her and the fish stuck as victims of confinement.
“I was playing in a large high school auditorium that echoed with phlegmy coughs and the squeaky rubber knobs of chair legs sliding across freshly waxed wooden floors."
The above sentence is full of auditory imagery, or the sensory detail of sound: you can hear the scene in your mind, since the narrator tells you that there are coughs that sound phlegmy and squeaks that sound like rubber moving across wood. The effect here is one of realism and tension: the fact that Waverly conveys the sounds so clearly clues you in to the idea that she’s hyper-focused on her surroundings as the chess competition is starting.
(Originally, this question also asked for examples of personification from the story as well as an explanation of how the fish and Waverly herself are symbolically connected. Please follow the respective links for those separate discussions.)