Introduction to Rules of the Game

“Rules of the Game” is a short story by Amy Tan. Tan wrote “Rules of the Game” in 1985 for a writer’s workshop, and it became one of the sixteen interconnected stories in her 1989 novel, The Joy Luck Club. Told from the perspective of Waverly Jong, a first-generation Chinese American woman, the story reflects on Waverly’s childhood as a champion chess player and how chess complicated her relationship with her mother. 

All of Tan’s works focus on the experiences of Chinese Americans, with a specific emphasis on the unique struggles facing Chinese American women. The Joy Luck Club was an instant success upon publication because of its unique and controversial depiction of the immigrant experience. “Rules of the Game” embodies many of the themes that characterize The Joy Luck Club as a whole through its portrayal of intergenerational conflict, parental expectations, and personal identity formation. Furthermore, Tan’s background in linguistics is on display in the way she uses language to develop her themes and characters: as Waverly grows up, her English becomes more refined as a result of being raised in the United States. This gradually foreshadows the shift in power between Waverly and her mother, who speaks in a comparatively stilted, grammatically incorrect English.

A Brief Biography of Amy Tan

Amy Tan was born in 1952 to Chinese immigrant parents and grew up in Northern California. Tan’s mother—the subject of her second novel, The Kitchen God’s Wife—suffered at the hands of a brutal husband whom she eventually divorced. When she moved to the United States, she was forced to leave her first three daughters behind in China. Tan and her siblings were from her mother’s second marriage in the States. Tan’s first book, The Joy Luck Club, published in 1989, was a phenomenal critical and popular success. In most of her works, she deals unflinchingly with the dynamics of mother–daughter relationships, explores ways to respect the past but live in the present, and showshow her characters attempt to balance their Chinese and American selves.

Frequently Asked Questions about Rules of the Game

Rules of the Game

The rising action of a story is the set of events that builds up tension. This set of events occurs after the exposition—the introduction of the story's characters and setting—and before the...

Latest answer posted January 11, 2021, 2:26 pm (UTC)

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Rules of the Game

Mood is a literary element focused on creating emotions within readers. Other elements like setting, theme, imagery, and diction can all contribute to building the mood of a text. Amy Tan's...

Latest answer posted January 11, 2021, 1:29 pm (UTC)

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Rules of the Game

While Waverly does not stop playing chess in "Rules of the Game," she does stop playing later in The Joy Luck Club, the book in which this story appears. In "Rules of the Game," Waverly initially...

Latest answer posted January 11, 2021, 1:47 pm (UTC)

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Rules of the Game

Waverly’s mother is a proud woman and instructs her son Vincent to throw away the secondhand chess set he receives as a Christmas present from the local church because she views it as an insult to...

Latest answer posted January 12, 2021, 1:04 pm (UTC)

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Rules of the Game

A simile is a comparison that uses the words like or as. One simile Amy Tan uses in "Rules of the Game" is I would swing my patent leather shoes back and forth like an impatient child riding on a...

Latest answer posted January 12, 2021, 12:00 pm (UTC)

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Rules of the Game

Waverly is the product of two cultures. She was born in the United States and even named after the street she was born on, symbolizing her roots in a new society. However, she is also deeply...

Latest answer posted January 12, 2021, 11:19 am (UTC)

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Rules of the Game

In the story "Rules of the Game," Waverly's mother tells her that the "strongest wind cannot be seen." Essentially, Waverly's mother tries to impress upon Waverly an important truth: the strongest...

Latest answer posted January 12, 2021, 12:34 pm (UTC)

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Rules of the Game

Waverly argues with her mother on a busy street where people brush past with shopping bags. Waverly says that she wishes her mother would not go into shops and introduce her as her daughter....

Latest answer posted January 12, 2021, 11:37 am (UTC)

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Rules of the Game

The fish on the family dinner table at the end of the story represents Waverly's fear of being trapped and destroyed by her mother's repressive Chinese cultural norms. After Waverly confronts and...

Latest answer posted January 11, 2021, 11:54 am (UTC)

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Rules of the Game

"Rules of the Game" is a first-person narrative told from the point of view of a girl named Waverly. She is an American-born daughter of Chinese immigrant parents. The narration moves back and...

Latest answer posted January 11, 2021, 12:14 pm (UTC)

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Rules of the Game

Although Waverly's mother is proud of her daughter's success, she upsets Waverly by critiquing her chess matches, constantly hovering over her shoulder while she practices, and showing her off at...

Latest answer posted January 11, 2021, 12:57 pm (UTC)

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Rules of the Game

Waverly Jong is portrayed as a smart young girl and a gifted and talented chess player. She learns how to play chess as a child, which is why her age in "Rules of the Game" is all the more...

Latest answer posted January 11, 2021, 12:19 pm (UTC)

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Rules of the Game

Waverly learns the art of invisible strength from her mother as a subtle, inconspicuous way to gain an advantage in life and rise above her circumstances. Waverly states that the art of invisible...

Latest answer posted January 11, 2021, 11:38 am (UTC)

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Rules of the Game

A child prodigy, Waverly becomes a national chess champion by the age of nine. She wins local tournaments and makes a name for herself in Chinatown. The local bakery showcases her growing...

Latest answer posted January 11, 2021, 5:21 pm (UTC)

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Rules of the Game

In "Rules of the Game," the American-born Waverly learns Chinese cultural rules from her mother. One is that strength lies in invisibility. Her mother likens this kind of strength to the wind,...

Latest answer posted January 10, 2021, 12:28 pm (UTC)

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Rules of the Game

The climax of the story is Waverly's confrontation with her mother in the street. This event has been building for the entire story. Waverly is precocious. Not only is she smart for her age, but...

Latest answer posted January 10, 2021, 12:16 pm (UTC)

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Rules of the Game

The main conflict in the story is between Chinese and American cultural norms. This manifests primarily as a struggle between Waverly and her mother, who was born in China. The conflict centers...

Latest answer posted January 10, 2021, 11:43 am (UTC)

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Rules of the Game

Waverly Place Jong is a Chinese American chess prodigy and the narrator and protagonist of the story "Rules of the Game." Waverly grows up in San Francisco's Chinatown with her immigrant parents...

Latest answer posted January 10, 2021, 2:49 pm (UTC)

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Rules of the Game

"Rules of the Game" is fiction, not a true story. It is part of Amy Tan's book The Joy Luck Club. While writing fiction, Tan, like many authors, uses elements from her own life in the story. She,...

Latest answer posted January 10, 2021, 12:07 pm (UTC)

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Rules of the Game

Personification is attributing human traits to animals or inanimate objects. One example of personification in this story is the wind. The wind represents the abstract concept of invisible...

Latest answer posted January 11, 2021, 12:38 pm (UTC)

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Summary