What is the significance of the way Amy Tan decided to organize the events in "The Rules of the Game"?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that when we consider the structure of this excellent short story we need to focus on two elements that Tan uses to link the structure in with her overall purpose of writing. Firstly, it is important to note the way that the conflict between Waverly and her mother escalates throughout the story, starting off as a small conflict about how Waverly exerts her power to get a small bag of plums and ending up in a serious, full-blown conflict between them when Waverly confronts her about the pride she takes in her chess playing:

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

Thus we are presented structurally with a series of events that serve to notch up the tension each time, before we arrive at the final conflict betwen them.

Secondly, it is important to note how chess is used as a motif structurally in the narrative. Having introduced it as a topic of conflict between Waverly and her mother, the story ends with a cataclysmic chess match between them in Waverly's imagination:

In my head, I saw a chessboard with sixty-four black and white squares. Opposite me was my opponent, two angry black slits. She wore a triumphant smile. "Strongest wind cannot be seen," she said.

The way that the story culminates in this mystical chess game supports and confirms the way that chess is viewed as a much bigger and wider "game" that Waverly still needs to learn the rules of. The final sentence leaves us with Waverly pondering her next move in the "game" that is the conflict between her and her mother.

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