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Rules of the Game

by Amy Tan

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What are two similes in the story "The Rules of the Game"?

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Waverly is compared to a child waiting on a bus, and she compares the lights in her apartment to a tiger’s eyes.

A simile is a type of figurative language where two things are being compared.  They often use the words “like” or “as” to make the comparison.

A simile creates an image for the reader, and helps establish the mood.  Consider this wonderful simile where Waverly, the chess prodigy, describes how she and her mother psych out her opponents in a chess competition.

I would swing my patent leather shoes back and forth like an impatient child riding on a school bus.

Waverly describes how every aspect of her performance and dress is designed to play up her little girl looks, from her “pink-and-white dress with scratchy lace at the neck” to her patent leather shoes.  Can you imagine being a grown man being beaten by this little girl in a pink frilly dress?  No wonder he’s sweating!  The author compares Waverly to a girl on a bus, as if she has nothing in the world to worry about but getting where she is trying to go. 

Another example of how a simile is used to create the mood is when Waverly has had a fight with her mother, and she uses a simile to describe the lights shining out of her apartment.

The alley was quiet and I could see the yellow lights shining from our flat like two tiger's eyes in the night.

In this case, she is imagining the difficulty of coming home.  She has told her mother that she does not want to be used as a trophy any more.  She does not want to be her mother’s tool.  She knows that things will be difficult between them, and she does not know what awaits her, but she knows it will be unpleasant.  This is why her imagination gets the better of her, and the author expresses this in a simile.

Figurative language can create a world of images for the reader, and really help immerse the reader in the story.  As you see, they help create the mood, and help characterize the people too.  We learned a lot about Waverly and her mother, and their relationship, from these two similes.  There are other similes in the story also!

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