Amy Tan; Conflict between Origins
The short story “Rules of the Game” from the book The Joy Luck Club, written by Amy Tan, is the story of a 8-year-old Chinese American girl named Waverly Jong who lives in San Fransisco’s China Town. The chess game appears for her as a true revelation as she begins to play. As Waverly begins to win more and more tournaments, her Chinese heritage moves asidefor the American culture. In this story, the symbolism, the setting and the conflict between Waverly and her mother, Lindo Jong, illustrates the distress of Waverly who is torn between Chinese and American origins.
In “Rules of the Game”, the symbolism has an important role in the separation of Waverly between Chinese and American origins. The first symbol appears from the beginning of thestory. Lindo teaches Waverly the “art of invisible strength” (Tan 89) and explains her that it is “a strategy for winning arguments, respect from others, and eventually, though neither of us knew it at the time, chess games” (Tan 89). In fact, when Waverly asks for a bag of plums, Lindo tells her daughter “Bite back your tongue” (Tan 89). The next week, Waverly does not say a word and hermother, at the end of the shopping, gives her a bag of plums. As Convintree explains, “this silence could be perceived as a very passive act, but her [Waverly’s] mother teaches her that silence can still be very intentional and in fact enact positive change” (269). In addition, another symbolism is the chess game, which is also the most important element of the story. At the first view, the chessgame represents the American part of Waverly because it is an American game. However, “the game of chess also takes on a mythical quality reminiscent of Waverly’s Chinese heritage” (Galens, ed. 260). Effectively, Waverly uses the art of invisible strength to win the chess tournaments. In fact, the game of chess represents the conflict between American and Chinese Origins. When Vincent,Waverly’s brother, answers her questions about the chess game by saying “This is a game. These are the rules. I didn’t make them up” (Tan 94), their mother declares, “This American rules . . . Every time people come out from foreign country, must know rules. You not know, judge say, Too bad, go back” (Tan 94). Lindo uses the chess rules to criticize the American’s rules. The art of invisiblestrength and the chess game, the two main symbolisms of the story, show the balance of Waverly concerning her origins.
The setting also takes an important place in the theme of the story, as a compromise between American and Chinese ways of life. Waverly lives in “San Fransisco’s Chinatown” (Tan 89); even if she lives in America, she resides in a Chinese neighborhood. She explains that “at theend of our two-block alley was a small sandlot playground with swings and slides” (Tan 90), as every typical neighborhood in America, but that for her and her two brothers, “the best playground . . . was the dark alley itself”, full of “daily mysteries and adventures” (Tan 90), that in fact is only composed of Chinese shops. Otherwise, Vincent, Waverly’s brother, wins the chess game during the“annual Christmas party held at the First Chinese Baptist Church at the end of the alley” (Tan 91). Once again, Chinese and American cultures are mixed together. Even if in China’s main religion is Buddhism, the Jong family applied to the American main religion, Christianity. During the party, the man in Santa Claus’s clothes asks Waverly if she “believes in Jesus Christ”, and she claims “I knewthe only answer to that. I nodded back with equal solemnity” (Tan 92). As Poquette asserts, “In 1950s America, anybody who did not want to be considered an outsider embraced Christianity, and even young Waverly is aware that is is one of the ‘rules’ of the American system” (266). Besides, Waverly is named by the Street she lives on, “Waverly Place Jong, my official name for American…