Rules of the Game Questions and Answers
by Amy Tan

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What is the theme of the story "Rules of the Game" by Amy Tan?

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The themes of "Rules of the Game" are all about conflict—first the eternal conflict between generations, then the equally well-established yet less clear-cut conflict between authority and and intelligence. There is also the more equal and cerebral conflict involved in a game of chess.

In the first few lines, Waverly says that when she was six years old, her mother taught her the art of invisible strength, which involves biting back her tongue. Waverly is rewarded when she does this, but it is always she who has to do it in conflicts with her mother. It is no strategy for winning arguments against Lindo. Indeed, it becomes clear that no such strategy exists. Waverly can use her intelligence to outwit her brothers and her opponents at chess but never her mother, who crushes her with the weight of authority. It does not matter that Waverly is right or that she is cleverer than her mother. Lindo scolds her for losing pieces in a chess game, even though she wins the game and a trophy.

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