In Amy Tan's novel The Joy Luck Club, what are some themes, tones, and narrative styles of the chapter titled "Rules of the Game"?

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vangoghfan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Amy Tan’s novel The Joy Luck Club, the chapter titled “Rules of the Game” is narrated by Waverly Jong. Some of the themes, tones, and narrative styles of the chapter might be described as follows:



  • Relations, especially conflicts, between mothers and daughters.
  • Childhood experiences; relations with siblings.
  • Relations between differing cultures.
  • Pride in oneself and in one’s family and culture.
  • Chess-playing, and also chess-playing as a metaphor for the game of life.
  • The power of mothers in Chinese families.



  • Humor and irony, as when the mother buys Waverly the plums she had seemed earlier to refuse to purchase, or when the mother explains to her daughter a boy’s reference to “Chinese torture”:

“‘Chinese people do many things,’ she said simply. Chinese people do business, do medicine, do painting. Not lazy like American people. We do torture. Best torture.’”

  • Frustration, especially of the daughter with the mother.



  • Ethnic dialect, as when Waverly’s mother says,

“Wise guy, he not go against wind. In Chinese we say, Come from South, blow with wind – poom! – North will follow. Strongest wind cannot be seen.”

  • Personal remiscence.
  • Vivid details, as in the following sentence:

The play area was bordered by wood-slat benches where old-country people sat cracking roasted watermelon seeds with their golden teeth and scattering the husks to an impatient gathering of gurgling pigeons.

  • Use of exotic jargon, as in the following description of chess moves:

“The Double Attack from the East and West Shores. Throwing Stones on the Drowning Man. The Sudden Meeting of the Clan. The Surprise from the Sleeping Guard. The Humble Servant Who Kills the King. Sand in the Eyes of Advancing Foes. A Double Killing Without Blood.”



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The Joy Luck Club

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