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Rules of the Game

by Amy Tan

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What is the relationship between Waverly Jong and her mother in "Rules of the Game"?

Waverly Jong has a difficult relationship with her mother, Lindo, in "Rules of the Game." Lindo puts a lot of pressure on her, especially when it comes to chess. Lindo does care about her daughter but takes so much pride in Waverly’s accomplishments that Waverly feels used. One of Waverly's outbursts escalates the tension in their relationship and, in the end, Waverly views her mother as an "opponent."

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In Amy Tan’s short story “Rules of the Game ,” Waverly Jung has a difficult relationship with her mother Lindo. Lindo has a lot of strict, traditional expectations for Waverly. However, Waverly’s mother feels that her methods of parenting are necessary to help her children given their socioeconomic...

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context. Recall how Waverly says,

My mother imparted her daily truths so she could help my older brothers and me rise above our circumstances...I didn’t think we were poor.

So it is not that Lindo does not care about Waverly, but that her strict expectations escalate into a pressure that overwhelms Waverly and creates tension between the two of them. Tensions really begin to escalate when Waverly begins to succeed at chess.

Lindo is proud of her daughter’s success, but to the point where Waverly feels a bit used. Consider how her mother would make Waverly walk to the market with her on Saturday so she could introduce her to people as her daughter. Lindo also becomes so involved in Waverly’s chess career that it makes Waverly feel tense and overwhelmed. For instance, Waverly explains,

My mother had a habit of standing over me while I plotted out my games. I think she thought of herself as my protective ally. Her lips would be sealed tight, and after each move I made, a soft "Hmmmmph" would escape from her nose. "Ma, I can't practice when you stand there like that," I said one day.

This quote really shows the complexity of their relationship. Her mother thought of her overbearing presence as "protective," while Waverly saw it as unbearable and stressful.

Another noteworthy passage that demonstrates what their relationship is like occurs when Waverly becomes so overwhelmed that she bursts out her true feelings:

I knew it was a mistake to say anything more, but I heard my voice speaking, "Why do you have to use me to show off? If you want to show off, then why don't you learn to play chess?”

This outburst brings some concrete honesty into Waverly’s relationship with her mother. But it also escalates the tension in their relationship to a breaking point. When Waverly finally faces her mother again after saying this, she knows that she is in tremendous trouble and wonders where to go from here. In the end, she faces her mother as an “opponent,” suggesting that they will each need to use strategic strategies of communication to argue for what they want and maintain a relationship.

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Waverly has a complex relationship with her mother, Lindo Jong, who is a rather strict, rigid Chinese immigrant. Waverly's mother wants her daughter to succeed in America and teaches Waverly the important art of invisible strength to gain an advantage over others. Lindo Jong also encourages her daughter to pursue her dreams of becoming a chess champion after she discovers that Waverly is a talented chess prodigy. Lindo Jong takes her daughter to tournaments and makes sacrifices to nurture Waverly's talents. Despite her good intentions and sacrifices, Lindo Jong becomes an oppressive influence over her daughter and causes Waverly significant stress during her tournaments and training sessions.

Waverly's mother views her daughter as a source of familial pride and brags about Waverly's accomplishments in public, which embarrasses Waverly and causes her significant anxiety. Waverly and her mother then become involved in an ongoing psychological battle as Waverly desperately tries to gain autonomy and distance herself from her oppressive, authoritative mother. Towards the end of the story, Waverly offends her mother and the two characters view each other as opponents.

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The relationship between Waverly and her mother is a complex one.  Moreover, the relationship develops as the story progresses.  And finally there is no resolution. 

In the beginning of the story, Waverly is a under her mother.  Her mother navigates her life.  She also teaches her about matters such as the art of invisible strength, which is something that allows people to win arguments and win respect from others. 

As the story progresses, Waverly discovers that she has a gift to play chess.  She excels to the point of being recognized nationally.  Some even say that she might be the first female grandmaster.  This new fame and recognition makes Waverly and her mother proud. Waverly also wants to break free from her mother. There is a yearning for independence in her heart. 

The problem is that Waverly's mother does not want to let Waverly go.  For example, she loves goes to the market with Waverly and tell others that this is her daughter.  This makes Waverly feel uncomfortable. So, she runs away after a conflict. 

In the end, Waverly comes back home to a furious mother.  Both do not know what to do, and the story ends. In light of this, we can say that Waverly and her mother are redefining their relationship. 

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