What does the symbol "wind" mean in the story "Rules of the Game" by Amy Tan?

In Amy Tan's "Rules of the Game," wind is the symbol of invisible inner strength.

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In "Rules of the Game ," wind symbolically represents inner strength, strategy, and intellect, all of which allow Waverly to overcome various obstacles in life and defeat her opponents in chess. At the beginning of the story, Waverly's mother teaches her the art of invisible strength. The art of...

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In "Rules of the Game," wind symbolically represents inner strength, strategy, and intellect, all of which allow Waverly to overcome various obstacles in life and defeat her opponents in chess. At the beginning of the story, Waverly's mother teaches her the art of invisible strength. The art of invisible strength is a way to strategically win arguments, subtly impose one's will onto others, and take advantage of certain situations by means of manipulation. As a Chinese immigrant, Waverly's mother encourages her daughter to bite her tongue and silently maneuver through situations to gain an advantage or attain something desired. Waverly's mother says,

Wise guy, he not go against wind. In Chinese we say, Come from South, blow with wind-poom!-North will follow. Strongest wind cannot be seen.

Waverly follows her mother's advice and is rewarded with a bag of salted plums for keeping her mouth shut in the store and exercising self-discipline. Waverly eventually becomes attracted to the game of chess and spends nearly every waking hour analyzing the game and sharpening her skillset. During her chess matches, she uses the art of invisible strength to manipulate her opponents and influence them to make costly mistakes. Tan associates inner strength with powerful winds that cannot be seen and personifies the wind by writing,

A light wind began blowing past my ears. It whispered secrets only I could hear.

"Blow from the South," it murmured. "The wind leaves no trail." I saw a clear path, the traps to avoid. The crowd rustled. "Shhh! Shhh!" said the corners of the room. The wind blew stronger. "Throw sand from the East to distract him." The knight came forward ready for the sacrifice. The wind hissed, louder and louder. "Blow, blow, blow. He cannot see. He is blind now. Make him lean away from the wind so he is easier to knock down."

"Check," I said, as the wind roared with laughter. The wind died down to little puffs, my own breath.

The wind symbolically represents Waverly's confidence, intellect, and inner strength. It is the positive, encouraging voice in her head that guides her to make the right decisions. In the story, Waverly masters the art of invisible strength and takes advantage of her opponents by subtly manipulating their actions.

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Amy Tan's "Rules of the Game" opens with the narrator, Waverly Jong, recalling when her mother taught her the art of invisible strength. This, she later reveals, is synonymous with wind: "Strongest wind cannot be seen." Throughout the story, wind is the symbol of inner strength, on which both Waverly and her mother draw in their battles with one another and the outside world.

As Waverly begins to play in her first chess tournament, the wind seems to be blowing about her ears, guiding her to avoid potential traps and win the game:

"Blow from the South," it murmured. "The wind leaves no trail." I saw a clear path, the traps to avoid.

Waverly equates the battles of chess with those of life and is frustrated that her mother, who does not understand the former, is able to prevail against her in the latter. Although her mother teaches her that inner strength is invisible, like wind, Waverly cannot explain the parallel situation in chess. The aim is not to capture as many pieces as possible, but to put your opponent's king in checkmate. When her mother scolds her for losing too many pieces, she fails to see that the strength of Waverly's tactical position is invisible to everyone else, like the wind.

At the end of the story, Waverly imagines herself playing a game of chess with her mother, when she is "gathered up by the wind and pushed up toward the night sky." Her mother does not need to be able to grasp the strategies of chess to impose her will on her daughter. She has decades of invisible strength on which to draw.

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The wind in "The Rules of the Game" symbolizes cunning and strategy.  In the beginning of the story, Waverly's mother teaches her the art of invisible strength. This art is defined as a way to win arguments and gain the respect of people. Within this context, Waverly's mother also says that the strongest wind cannot be seen. She states:

In Chinese we say, Come from South, blow with wind-poom!-North will follow. Strongest wind cannot be seen."

As one can see, there is an emphasis on invisibility. To put it another way, the art of invisible strength, which Mrs. Jong teaches, and the wind both cannot be seen.  In this way, Mrs. Jong is trying to teach Waverly to be wise and cunning.  For example, it is not bad to appear weak at times.  In fact, this can be a great asset, if it this weakness is feigned and followed by strength. 

Waverly proves to be an apt pupil, especially in the area of chess.  In one of her first tournaments, she states that the wind taught her secrets.  The wind taught her to avoid traps and presumably to set them to win.  I will quote this section of the story in length.

A light wind began blowing past my ears. It whispered secrets only I could hear.

"Blow from the South," it murmured. "The wind leaves no trail." I saw a clear path, the traps to avoid...The wind blew stronger. "Throw sand from the East to distract him." The knight came forward ready for the sacrifice. The wind hissed, louder and louder. "Blow, blow, blow. He cannot see. He is blind now. Make him lean away from the wind so he is easier to knock down." 

"Check," I said, as the wind roared with laughter.

Finally, the notion of the wind appear at the end of the story, when Waverly and her mother are in conflict.  Waverly knows that her mother's wind cannot be seen.  So, she fears and contemplates her next move. 

 

 

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