Essay: Rules of the Game

Pages: 3 (937 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Literature

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Rules of the Game

Amy Tan's "The Rules of the Game" and the Metaphor of the Chessboard

Amy Tan's "Rules of the Game" is both a story of the American dream and the American nightmare. Told from the perspective of an eight-year-old American-Born-Chinese girl, Tan's short story is no ordinary coming-of-age tale, in which a young person in dire circumstances finds away to excel beyond those circumstances. Instead, Tan's story offers readers the metaphor of a chessboard, a metaphor in which black -- the opposition -- stands for the old world of Waverly's mother and White, the offense -- the offensive team -- stands for the progressive ways of America. Through developing this metaphor, however, Tan causes the reader to question whether or not Waverly's ideas of what is driving her and what is opposing her are positive.

From the first opening paragraphs of Tan's "Rules of the Game" it is clear that that the conflicting Chinese and American cultures of an Urban, San Francisco Chinatown are of great importance to the Jong family. The Jong family children live in a world where they have the comforts of their culture in Chinatown -- the traditional cooking and friendship of their contemporaries, the traditional shops and medicines, and the pervasive belief in luck. Despite this, it is clear that their lives are constantly infiltrated with American-ness: they are Baptists, go to schools where they year Chinese stereotypes such as "Chinese torture," and believe in Western traditions, such as Santa Clause. Although it may not seem so at first, the conflict between Chinese and American culture is a driving force in Waverly's life. While she exhibits a respect for her Chinese ways, she seems to see her culture as something that holds her back. Indeed the "sly thought" to ask her mother about Chinese torture, assumption that younger children did not know Santa Clause was not Chinese, and frustration with her mother's honor and pride are examples of this. However, when Waverly calls the chess tournament she has yet to play in "too American," while secretly wanting to go, she makes clear for the first time that on her chess board, the American pieces are her white, offensive pieces, while the Chinese pieces are the black opposition. She must defeat the Chinese customs in order to proceed. This becomes clearest at the end of the story, when Waverly sees "a chessboard with sixty-four black and white squares. Opposite [her] was [her] opponent, two angry black slits" (Tan 9). Waverly is imagining her mothers "black men advanc[ing] across the plane, slowly marching to each successive level as a single unit," as she "[ponders her] next move" (Tan 9). Thus, through this incident it is clear that Waverly sees her Chinese and American cultures in conflict like the conflict on a chess… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Cite This Essay:

APA Format

Rules of the Game.  (2009, August 11).  Retrieved December 7, 2019, from

MLA Format

"Rules of the Game."  11 August 2009.  Web.  7 December 2019. <>.

Chicago Format

"Rules of the Game."  August 11, 2009.  Accessed December 7, 2019.