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Rules of the Game

by Amy Tan

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How do Mrs. Jong's privileges for Waverly affect their mother-daughter relationship?

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As Waverly becomes better at chess, her mother takes greater interest in her playing. In fact, Mrs. Jong starts to give her many privileges around the house.  For example, Waverly no longer has to do the dishes. Her brothers absorb these chores. As you can imagine her brothers are not happy.

“Why does she get to play and we do all the work," complained Vincent. "Is new American rules," said my mother. "Meimei play, squeeze all her brains out for win chess. You play, worth squeeze towel."

Later when Waverly complains that her room is too noisy, Mrs. Jong moves her brothers into the living room.  Undoubtedly, Waverly has the attention and support of her mother.

Waverly has all of these privileges, but strings are attached, and her relationship with her mother changes. For one thing, Mrs. Jong hovers over Waverly. For example, when Waverly is practicing chess, her mother is looking over her shoulder, which annoys her. Most of all, Waverly and her mother go to the market together, and her mother brags about Waverly’s triumphs. At one point, Waverly cannot take it anymore and a confrontation ensues.  She actually runs away.  At the end of the story, there is no resolution, as mother and daughter have to navigate a new understanding in their relationship.

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