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The Joy Luck Club

by Amy Tan

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Why does Waverly stop playing chess in "The Joy Luck Club"?

Quick answer:

Waverly quits chess after a fight with her mother because her mother constantly brags about and takes credit for her chess wins. At first, Waverly plans to quit temporarily, but when she does start playing chess again, it is spoiled for her because it is spoiled for her mother. At this point, Waverly does not do well in a tournament and then quits altogether.

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When Waverly's brother gets a chess set for Christmas—one their mother wants him to throw out—Waverly learns to play chess and, as a child prodigy, quickly starts winning tournaments. By age nine, she is a national chess champion, and Life magazine runs her photo.

Waverly, however, becomes increasingly annoyed and embarrassed when her mother takes her around with her to do the Saturday shopping in their Chinese American neighborhood, as her mother is always showing her off and bragging about her to the shopkeepers. Her mother also credits her own advice for Waverly's success, despite knowing nothing about chess.

One day, Waverly gets so upset at her mother that she tells her she wishes she wouldn't brag about her all the time. Her mother interprets this as Waverly being embarrassed by her. The two have a fight, and her mother freezes Waverly out emotionally. Waverly tries to fight back by temporarily not playing chess and even missing a tournament, but it does no good. Finally, she does go back to chess, but her mother is indifferent. Waverly doesn't do as well as she should have at a tournament and after that quits playing.

Waverly's fight with her mother ruins chess for her mother, who wanted to enjoy and take pride in her daughter's success. Her mother, in turn, uses psychological warfare to ruin chess for Waverly. The incident shows the kind of control the mother has over her daughter and their mutual dependence on the other's affirmation.

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