What are MeiMei and her mother really arguing about when they are shopping in "Rules of the Game" by Amy Tan?

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Waverly's strict mother makes her accompany her to the local market on Saturdays when she does not have any chess tournaments. At the market, Waverly's mother introduces her to many people, which embarrasses Waverly, who ends up arguing with her mother about the uncomfortable situation. Waverly tells her mother that she feels like she is being used and is upset at the fact that her own mother is showing her off like a novelty item. Waverly then suddenly rips her hand out of her mother's and begins running away. On the surface, the argument between Waverly and her mother concerns her mother's embarrassing Saturday routine. However, their argument is an expression of Waverly's negative feelings towards her mother's authoritative personality and high expectations. Waverly's mother has taken the fun out of playing chess by continually watching over her daughter's shoulder, criticizing her tactics, and placing extremely high expectations on Waverly. Waverly feels stifled by her mother's oppressive influence and her complaint at the market is simply an expression of built-up animosity towards her mother.

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In the story, MeiMei has to accompany her mother to the market on Saturday mornings when there are no chess tournaments to play. Despite the fact that she despises this chore, MeiMei knows that she will never get a reprieve from this responsibility.

During one especially fateful market morning, MeiMei and her mother end up arguing. MeiMei's mother has the irritating habit of introducing Meimei to everyone they meet. This embarrasses Meimei, who would rather not be held up to scrutiny by the larger community and strangers alike. She accuses her mother of using her to "show off."

To date, MeiMei has won the distinction of being Chinatown's Chess Champion, and at nine, has become a national chess champion. With 429 points to go before she reaches grand-master status, the stakes have never been higher. Meanwhile, MeiMei's accomplishments have raised the status of her parents among the larger Chinese community in Chinatown. For her part, MeiMei's mother clearly enjoys introducing her daughter to everyone they meet, but this embarrasses MeiMei. Also, the added pressure to conform to expectations in every circumstance is a burden to MeiMei.

So, MeiMei argues with her mother because she feels stifled by the expectations placed upon her. On the surface, it may seem as if they are arguing over MeiMei's mother's clearly gratuitous practice of introducing her daughter to everyone they meet. However, there is a much deeper reason for the discord between the mother and daughter. Essentially, both are arguing over whose wishes will eventually prevail in MeiMei's life: MeiMei's or her mother's. The final line of the story supports this interpretation: "I closed my eyes and pondered my next move." Both MeiMei and her mother are engaged in a battle of wits.

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