What are two examples of personification in "Rules of the Game"?

Two examples of personification in "Rules of the Game" are when Waverly notes that "the color ran out of the room" and when she describes an old man who is her opponent and says, "his sweaty brow seemed to weep at my every move." Other examples concern the wind and the chess pieces.

Expert Answers

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

Personification is a literary device used to give human characteristics to something that is not human. Writers use this technique for variety of purposes, from irony to imagery to tone.

After her brother receives a chess set for Christmas, Waverley learns how to play and becomes quite good. When her...

See
This Answer Now

Start your subscription to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your Subscription

Personification is a literary device used to give human characteristics to something that is not human. Writers use this technique for variety of purposes, from irony to imagery to tone.

After her brother receives a chess set for Christmas, Waverley learns how to play and becomes quite good. When her brother will no longer play with her, she finds opponents outside her home and gets even better. Eventually, she decides to participate in a local chess tournament, but her mother, concerned that Waverley will fail and bring shame to the family, warns her that she will be shamed if she "falls down [and] nobody push[es]" her.

As Waverly is called to compete, she notes that "the color ran out of the room." In this example of personification, the abstract concept of color is given the ability to flee from sight. This sets a tone that reflects Waverley's primary objective: to move black and white chess pieces strategically. No other colors matter. This world of winning and losing is only black and white.

Later Waverly faces an opponent who is an old man. She says that "his sweaty brow seemed to weep at my every move." In this example of personification, the man's brow is given the human ability to cry. This implies Waverly's masterful control of her situation: she is a little girl who can make old men "cry" through her masterful control of a chess board.

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

Personification is the use of figurative language in which something nonhuman is described using human traits or characteristics. This is similar to anthropomorphism. The main difference is that, with anthropomorphism, the nonhuman entity (animal, object, idea, etc.) actually takes on the human attribute. (A good example of this is in Animal Farm, in which the animals actually speak.)

The wind is the key symbolic element being personified in this story. Note that at the beginning, we get the first lesson from Waverly's mother:

Strongest wind cannot be seen.

Waverly will learn to be silent and strong like this wind.

As mentioned in a previous answer, the wind whispers secrets only Waverly can hear. In this, her first tournament, she wins her first match. After saying Check, "the wind roared with laughter." The wind is personified as laughing with Waverly's victory. This is the same wind whispering chess secrets and strategies to her. The wind is on her side.

At the end of the story, Waverly goes to her room and imagines a chessboard. Her mother sits across from her and utters the same phrase:

Strongest wind cannot be seen.

Waverly personifies her white chess pieces:

My white pieces screamed as they scurried and fell off the board one by one.

As her mother's chess pieces continue to advance, Waverly feels like she's losing. Then she notes feeling lighter and is pushed up by the wind away from everything below. She uses the wind to escape, a metaphorical tactic she might use in chess or with her mother in the future. The story ends with Waverly pondering her next move, and this undoubtedly refers to her mental chess game with her mother.

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

Personification is a literary device in which an inanimate object, animal, or idea is given human attributes. Amy Tan uses personification several times throughout her short story "Rules of The Game," which chronicles the experiences of a young chess prodigy, Waverly Place Jong. When Waverly is questioning her mother about Chinese torture as her mother roughly combs her hair, Waverly utilizes personification by saying,

"One day, as she struggled to weave a hard-toothed comb through my disobedient hair, I had a sly thought" (Tan, 1).

Waverly personifies her hair by referring to it as being disobedient. Disobedience is a human attribute and hair cannot behave a certain way. However, using personification helps describe the difficulty of combing Waverly's tough hair.

When Waverly attends her first outdoor chess tournament, she once again utilizes personification by attributing human characteristics to the light wind that begins to blow past her ears. Waverly says,

"A light wind began blowing past my ears. It whispered secrets only I could hear" (Tan, 4).

Wind is personified by having the ability to whisper into Waverly's ear like a human. Personifying the wind allows the reader to imagine Waverly's intricate thought process as she competes in her chess match.

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

Personification is a type of figurative language in which a writer gives a nonhuman subject human characteristics. In the story "Rules of the Game" (an excerpt from the novel The Joy Luck Club), Waverly, the first person narrator, often speaks figuratively in the description of her life growing up in San Francisco's Chinatown. For example, she uses personification when she describes the pigeons which she sees in the playground near the alley where she lives: "old country people sat cracking roasted watermelon seeds with their golden teeth and scattering the husks to an impatient gathering of gurgling pigeons." Impatience is usually a quality reserved for humans so by describing the pigeons as impatient as they wait for food is personification. Another example of personification occurs when Waverly is describing the chess board which her brother Vincent received as a present at the church Christmas party: "The chess board seemed to hold elaborate secrets waiting to be untangled." Again, holding secrets is definitely a human endeavor so Waverly is again personifying a nonhuman object, in this case, the chess board. 

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

Personification is attributing human traits to animals or inanimate objects.

One example of personification in this story is the wind. The wind represents the abstract concept of invisible strength, but it also is treated at times as if it is a human being. For example, while Waverly is playing in a chess tournament, the wind seems to speak to her and offer her advice, just as a human might:

It whispered secrets only I could hear. "Blow from the South," it murmured. "The wind leaves no trail."

The chessmen in the story also are personified. For example, although they are only inanimate objects, Waverly learns to

Keep captured men in neat rows, as well-tended prisoners.

Later, when Waverly is playing in a tournament, a chess piece is given human agency, as if it has thought for itself:

The knight came forward ready for the sacrifice.

It is not surprising that these two important elements of the story should be personified. The Taoist philosophy of moving with the wind and using the power of its flow is central to how Waverly experiences life. Like a human, the wind is of mixed character for Waverly: she both uses its invisible power to help guide her and rebels against the ideas of silence and invisibility that it imposes on her.

Chess also becomes central to Waverly. It becomes a metaphor for navigating the game of life as Waverly learns to navigate the rules of two different cultures. It shows mastering the rules as central to Waverly's existence.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on