Rules of the Game by Amy Tan
In Rules of the Game by Amy Tan we have the theme of wisdom, pride, tradition, innocence and conflict. Taken from her The Joy Luck Club collection the story is narrated in the first person by a young girl called Waverly Jong and from the beginning of the story the reader realizes that Tan may be exploring the theme of wisdom. Waverly’s mother tells Waverly a wise Chinese proverb that she thinks will help Waverley to have patience when it comes to things she might like to have. Also old Li, the herbalist is wiser than American doctors. This may be significant as Tan may be suggesting that western medicine could learn something by using Chinese herbs. After all Li cured a woman who was deemed incurable by American doctors. If anything the reader would not be wrong to suspect that Tan is also suggesting traditional recipes are better than modern cures.
The theme of pride is also evident in the story. Waverly’s mother is proud of her daughter even if she thinks that Waverly loses too many pieces when playing chess. In fact so proud is Mrs Jong that she allows for Waverly to avoid some of her daily chores in order that Waverly can improve her chess playing. It is also noticeable that Waverly takes advantage of the new rules in the house and pretends at times that she cannot eat all her food as she will not be able to play chess properly. It is also possible that Mrs Jong looks upon Waverly as a prodigy that she should be nurtured and if anything Waverly could be the family passport out of Chinatown. Pride is further explored as a theme when the local bakery starts to display Waverly’s trophies.
There may be some symbolism in the story which might be important. The chess pieces and board could be seen to represent life and the game that one has to play in order to survive. The fact that there are two pieces missing leaving the set incomplete could suggest that though Waverly is a prodigy she still has a lot to learn about life. She is after all only eight years old. She may think she knows what life is about but the reality is she remains innocent even if she does like playing in the dark alley with her brothers. Where the seedier side of life could be seen. Winston and Vincent play an important role in the story as by having Waverly beat them when playing chess Tan could be suggesting that woman are more than capable in a male dominated world.
The end of the story is interesting as Tan appears to be exploring the theme of conflict. Waverly is embarrassed that her mother tells others that Waverly, the chess prodigy, is her daughter. It does not dawn on Waverly that her mother is proud of her. Which further suggests how innocent Waverly actually is. When Waverly runs away she realizes that she has nowhere to run. If anything she knows that she is reliant on her mother and must return home to face the consequences of her actions. She knows that she will be in trouble but is surprised and somewhat dumbfounded by her mother’s reaction. Rather than scolding Waverly, Mrs Jong tells her family that Waverly does not concern her anymore. This is the worst thing that could happen as far as Waverly is concerned. In fact so low is Waverly that she imagines her mother beating her in a game of chess. This might be important as it suggests that Waverly might be good at chess but her mother is wiser than her. If anything Waverly still has a lot to learn. Something which is understandable considering her tender age.