Why do you think Amy Tan called the story "Rules of the Game"?

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teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The title highlights the importance of self-knowledge or the need to understand the "rules" for oneself, whether those rules pertain to a chess game, a domestic relationship, or the laws of a nation.

In the story, Waverly's mother makes an interesting observation after she hears Waverly discussing the rules of chess with Vincent:

"This American rules," she concluded at last. "Every time people come out from foreign country, must know rules. You not know, judge say, Too bad, go back. They not telling you why so you can use their way go forward. They say, Don't know why, you find out yourself. But they knowing all the time. Better you take it, find out why yourself."

Waverly's mother asserts that knowledge is a powerful weapon and that it is key to one's success. She contends that one must always strive to understand the rationale behind any rule or principle; it is the only way to craft effective strategies that will defeat one's competitors or enemies.

Even though Waverly is young, she is perceptive. As she listens to her mother's wise words, she begins to understand the importance of having foresight, the ability to see "the endgame before the game begins." She also begins to realize that "the one who plays better has the clearest plans for both attacking and getting out of traps." A formidable chess player is an expert strategist; her patience and meticulous planning allows her to hold her own, long after her opponent tires.

Waverly discovers that there are also "rules" that guide a mother-daughter relationship. Her mother is a formidable opponent and has myriad strategies for driving home her maternal advantage. However, Waverly has the advantage of youth and, with it, physical stamina. After confronting her mother in the marketplace, Waverly breaks free from her mother's hold and runs ahead of her.

She ignores her mother's frantic calls and runs into unfamiliar alleys. Although the exercise is cathartic, Waverly soon realizes that running away will accomplish little. Later, however, she revels in knowing that, for two delicious hours, she was the mistress of her own destiny. The story ends with Waverly pondering how she will outwit her mother.

The title reinforces the importance of knowing the "rules of the game," whether the rules pertain to relationships or a chess game.

teachertaylor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are two interpretations of the title "Rules of the Game"--one literal, the other figurative.  From a literal perspective, "Rules of the Game" refers to the rules of chess that Waverly learns to master while she plays with first her brothers and later her competitors.  Waverly becomes a chess champion because she feels in-sync with the game and its strategies.  However, this sync is broken when she begins to feel embarrassed by her mother's public sense of pride.  She does not understand why her mother must broadcast her accomplishments to all whom she knows.  To get back at her mother, Waverly decides to quit playing chess.  When she decides to play again, it is without her mother's blessing, and Waverly fails to continue her championship reign.  Here, the figurative meaning of the title comes into play--Waverly does not understand the "rules of the game" of life that dictate her relationship with her mother.  Waverly still has much to learn about life and relationships, and this is evident in the story.

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