What is the main conflict in "Rules of the Game" by Amy Tan?

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The primary conflict of Rules of the Game revolves around the theme of "hidden strength." Hidden strength is a concept that Waverly's mother, Lindo Jong, instills in her from an early age. It is the idea that one can become victorious by remaining silent and not giving anything away. It...

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The primary conflict of Rules of the Game revolves around the theme of "hidden strength." Hidden strength is a concept that Waverly's mother, Lindo Jong, instills in her from an early age. It is the idea that one can become victorious by remaining silent and not giving anything away. It is perhaps this lesson that allows Waverly to become a chess prodigy. As she rises through the ranks and even competes nationally, she is proud of her progress but is increasingly disturbed by her mother's tendency to fawn over her. From Waverly's perspective, Lindo is using her daughter to show off. This contention forms the primary conflict of the story and creates a tension that is very akin to the chess games that Waverly has mastered so easily.

After a particularly embarrassing and infuriating incident at the market, Waverly decides to run from her mother into the alleys surrounding her community. She soon realizes that not only does she have nowhere to go, but is also no longer being chased. Waverly realizes in this moment the hidden strength of her mother and how she had never brought up the fact that Waverly could not survive without her. In the final passage of the story, Waverly feels her mother approaching a checkmate, and she plots her next move.

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The primary conflict in Amy Tan's short story "Rules of the Game" concerns Waverly's struggle to subvert and break free from her mother's overbearing presence in order to enjoy competing in the game of chess. As the daughter of a Chinese immigrant, Waverly struggles to live up to her mother's high expectations and experience autonomy while playing chess. Instead of facilitating and encouraging Waverly's extraordinary talent, her mother becomes the source of extreme pressure and causes Waverly extensive anxiety and stress.

For example, Waverly's mother continually criticizes her for losing chess pieces even though Waverly wins matches and hovers over her daughter's shoulder while she practices. Waverly's mother also forces her daughter to walk with her in the market place and brags about Waverly's accomplishments, which causes Waverly embarrassment. Waverly's mother believes that her daughter's primary focus should be taking advantage of America's many opportunities and bringing pride to their family, while Waverly simply wants to enjoy competing and winning matches. By the end of the story, Waverly's relationship with her mother is severely strained, and she views her mother as her main opponent. Overall, the primary conflict in the short story concerns Waverly's struggle to overcome her mother's overbearing presence and experience autonomy as a successful chess player.

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In Amy Tan's short story "Rules of the Game," Waverly, the daughter of Chinese immigrants, uses chess to subvert her parents' traditional ideas. Her mother wants her to be quiet and traditionally Chinese. Her mother tells her the "strongest wind cannot be seen," meaning that Waverly should not complain or make her needs overtly known. Waverly, who has several brothers and is the only girl in the family, uses chess as a way to avoid the usual tasks and role that would fall to her as a girl. After she wins a tournament, she no longer has to do the dishes. When her brother complains, her mother says, "Is new American rules." In other words, by using chess, Waverly feels like she can subvert her mother's Chinese rules and live by American rules.

However, Waverly feels like her mother is taking over her glory. She gets angry with her mother for always telling people that Waverly is her daughter, and the mother reacts by ignoring her. When Waverly closes her eyes, she visualizes her mother as her opponent. Waverly's conflict with her mother is that she wants to use chess to define herself as an American and as the type of girl who has freedom. Her mother, on the other hand, wants Waverly's chess success to be part of her family's glory. In a traditional Chinese way, she thinks her daughter's chess victories are not just about Waverly but about the whole family. The idea of individuality versus family commitment is at the center of the mother-daughter conflict.

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Like all of the mother-daughter relationships in Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club, the tension between Waverly and her mother in "Rules of the Game" (an excerpt from the novel) is the primary conflict. Waverly's mother wants her daughter to take advantage of the opportunities that America offers her--opportunities that Waverly's mother did not have in China. Similarly, Waverly is expected to bring pride to her mother as many of the other children in Chinatown do in the story's setting.

While Waverly is competitive and takes pride in her skills, she does not like being pressured to win for her mom's sake--which is what she feels. This tension is not simply an external conflict between mom and daughter; it is also a conflict between Chinese tradition (children submissively making their parents proud) and independence (a key element of 1960s America).

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