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Rules of the Game

by Amy Tan
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"'Who say this word?' she asked without a trace of knowing how wicked I was being." What is the cultural conflict expressed in these lines from "Rules of the Game"?

The cultural conflict expressed in the lines "'Who say this word?' she asked without a trace of knowing how wicked I was being" is that between first- and second-generation Chinese Americans. Waverly, who's a second-generation Chinese American, wants to know what Chinese torture means. Her mother, Lindo, a first-generation Chinese American, is not pleased with being asked such a question, as it offends her pride in Chinese culture.

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In Amy Tan's "The Rules of the Game," we are treated to a monumental battle of wills between Waverly and her formidable mother, Lindo. To a considerable extent, this battle is a direct consequence of an intergenerational gap between mother and daughter, between first-generation and second-generation Chinese Americans.

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In Amy Tan's "The Rules of the Game," we are treated to a monumental battle of wills between Waverly and her formidable mother, Lindo. To a considerable extent, this battle is a direct consequence of an intergenerational gap between mother and daughter, between first-generation and second-generation Chinese Americans.

Thoroughly Americanized as she is, Waverly lacks the same degree of reverence for Chinese culture as her mother. This explains why, when her mother is doing her hair one day, she slyly asks Lindo what Chinese torture means. Apparently, some boy in her class said that Chinese people do Chinese torture.

The question deeply offends Lindo's sense of pride in her culture and heritage. She tells Waverly, in that characteristically abrupt manner of hers, that Chinese people do many things; not just torture, but business, medicine, and painting. They're not lazy like American people. Yes, they do torture; but it's the best torture.

Lindo is so keen on sticking up for Chinese culture that she's prepared to go to absurd lengths—insisting that Chinese people do the best torture—in order to do it. One certainly can't imagine Waverly, a second-generation Chinese American, doing anything of the kind. This is just one of many things that separates her from her mother.

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