Rules of the Game Study Guide
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.