"Rules of the Game" by Amy Tan explores the relationship between the main character, Waverly, and her mother. The protagonist becomes more and more proficient in chess, with less proficiency in dealing with the tense relationship between her mother, a constant source of tension in her life.
Because of the distinct conflict between Waverly and her mother, the reader explores the thematic subjects of family, power, and control. Specifically, the subjects that reflect the mother-daughter relationship.
Through this thematic subject, the reader can trace the conflict and character interaction to develop a thematic statement, specifically that of "conflicts in our family can shape our own intentions in life."
Her mother is overbearing, incredibly critical, and often at odds with the goals and desired outcomes Waverly has for herself. Thus, the reader begins to see that within this family, there is a struggle for power—a desire for control and correctness. Due to this power struggle, Waverly more and more desires her own independence, a life away from the control her mother insists on inserting on her life. She seeks the clarity that exists when she is free from this structure.
Take the following quote, for example, for a deeper dive:
Each morning before school, my mother would twist and yank on my thick black hair until she had formed two tightly wound pigtails.
Even in such a seemingly simple action, the reader is exposed to the control of her mother exhibited in something like the way she has her daughter wear her hair.
My mother had a habit of standing over me while I plotted out my games. I think she thought of herself as my protective ally.
Literally standing over her, Waverly's mother wants control. Sure, one can make the assumption that there is protection within this power, but the feelings Waverly has for this control more and more throughout the story shape her desire to be free from it.
All in all, when a reader explores a thematic subject, such as family and the power that derives from it, one is able to expand on this subject to create a thematic statement.