Rules of the Game by Amy Tan

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

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Hollis Sanders eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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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...

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