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Rules of the Game

by Amy Tan

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Student Question

In "The Rules of the Game", how is Waverly Jong a victim of her parents or time?

Expert Answers

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1.  Waverly is a victim of her mother's cynical view of life.  Admittedly, her mother has not had it easy making her way as an immigrant in an unfamiliar culture and country.  She bitterly explains to Waverly that in America

"Every time people come out from foreign country, must know rules."

She goes on to say that people have information that would help immigrants, but they make newcomers learn on their own.  This is Waverly's mother's excuse for making Waverly "learn the hard way" instead of trying to help her daughter avoid the mistakes that she has made.

2. Waverly also knows that her mother is very concerned about her children bringing shame upon the family.  As a Chinese immigrant, Mrs. Jong wants very badly to make a good impression only and to represent China in a good light.  This puts undo pressure upon Waverly because everything she does or does not do is tied back to how she is making her culture appear to America.  An example of this is when Waverly wants to play in the chess tournament but knows that her mother will not let her play among "strangers."  She is forced to use a little reverse psychology on her mother and pretends that she does not want to play in the tournament in order to get her mother's permission to play.

3.  Waverly is most definitely a victim of her time.  She grows up during a time when women are still not considered the equal of men; so she must push her way into a man's world (chess).  Moreover, her family emigrates to America with a host of other Chinese immigrants who escape the revolution.  One can infer that Mrs. Jong felt the responsibility to prove that she deserved to be in America and that she would be a contributor to its society instead of a pity case that America had taken in.  Thus, Waverly bears that responsibility, too, because her mother uses her to present a positive view of a Chinese female to the world.

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