Free Analysis of Rules of the Game by Amy Tan Essay Sample
Amy Tan is a writer that inherited a mixture of different cultural traditions. Though she was born in Oakland, California, she has also lived in Switzerland for her high school education. Being born in a Chinatown and having grown up among Chinese surrounding, Amy Tan identified herself as a Chinese. After college, she started writing as a corporate freelance writer. Rules of the Game became her first work, which she wrote in 1985 for a writing workshop. This story laid down the foundation of the novel The Joy Luck Club. This book was concentrated on the relationship between Chinese women and their Chinese-American daughters and events. As Lan Dong poses it, Under enormous pressure and moving frequently from one place to another, Amy suffered from loneliness and strained relationship with her mother in childhood. Since this story is autobiographical, one can assume the challenges of ethnical minorities living in America in 1950s, the era of optimism and prosperity in America.
The story begins with the introduction of the protagonist, Waverly Jong and her mother Lindo. Readers notice immediately that there is a strong connection between them. Therefore, Waverly appears to be an average girl with average childhood. Since her childhood, the girl realizes that Chinese are different from Americans, and that they need to work really hard to prove they are not worse. Nevertheless, the situation changes when Waverly learns how to play chess. After that, her life becomes different, she becomes able to prove that she is better than Americans, and her mother starts using her to show off. When Waverly finally protests against that, she becomes an average girl again. However, she realizes that chess became a part of her life forever.
Main themes of this story relate to chess as a game of life, generational and cultural gap. This story shows that chess can be more than just a game. It can be a chance to become famous and prove people that one is worth something. Besides, chess improve logical thinking and transform a player into the strategist. However, chess can ruin the relationships between the two generations. Generational and cultural gaps lead to misunderstanding between a mother and a daughter. Amy Tan tracks the theme mother versus daughter throughout the story, displaying how their conflict emerges and develops. Finally, the writer turns to her favorite feminist theme. According to Shodgrass, The huge following for Amy Tans writings attests to her success at feminist and universal themes. Her novels, stories, and essays brim with support for strong mother-daughter and woman-to-woman relations.
Major characters in the story are Waverly Jong and her mother Lindo. The rest of the characters are minor ones and appear in the story episodically. Waverly is a seven-year-old Chinese-American protagonist with a contradictory personality. When she wants something desperately, she denies herself thinking about it. In fact, it is noticeable from the beginning of the story when Waverly and her mother come into the store. Though Waverly desperately wants the plums, she cannot have them as her mother orders her to bite back her tongue. The same inner conflict can be tracked throughout the story. On the one hand, Waverly would like to be someone important, but when she finally becomes a favorite chess player she rejects to participate in the contest and is embarrassed of her fame. It shows that Waverly is a round character. Apart from that, the girl is a static character, because she does not change in the course of the story. She may learn some lessons from her mother and her life experience, but it does not have an impact on her personality. Following the rules is the most important lesson she had learned from her mother and, therefore, she does not see a need to change anything or to go against the rules.
The girls mother Lindo is the antagonist of the story. Though she seems to support her daughter at first, she became an obstacle that the protagonist must overcome at the end of the story. Her mother is a woman of action. Not only she believes something is right, she acts accordingly to her beliefs. As Amy Tan poses it, My mother imparted her daily truths so she could help my older brothers and me rise above our circumstances. Besides, this is a strong woman, and she teaches Waverly about the inner strength saying, strongest wind cannot be seen. Mother Lindo is a round character too. She can both encourage and discourage her daughter at the same time. On the one hand, Lindo supports her daughter by her presence during the outdoor exhibition games and makes many concessions to allow Waverly to practice chess. She is very proud of her daughter. On the other hand, she changes her attitude when her daughter disappoints her. She becomes angry, upset and not willing even to talk to her daughter. It looks as though she cannot determine one behavior pattern towards her daughter and follow it till the end. Lindo is a static character, as well. She was against playing chess since the beginning and, finally, she remains with the same beliefs till the end.
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Amy Tan bases this story on the symbolic meaning of chess as a game of life. Chess teaches the protagonist to arrange plans for attacking and getting out of traps, to have foresight and patience, and develop invisible strengths to foresee possible outcomes. More so, she discovers also that a little knowledge withheld is a great advantage for future use. To her, chess is a game of secrets in which one must show and never tell. Chess lessons have influence on the entire life of the protagonist. She discovers resemblance between her life and chess game as both imply battles are to be fought and won through some tactics. Consequently, she decides to initiate her own battle for her freedom. Chess game is also a symbol of freedom for the girl. She becomes free of the prejudices that exist towards little girls in her culture; she becomes free of her daily routine and is free to practice her intellectual skills. Thus, she breaks away from an average life. What is more important, she gains inner freedom that nobody can take from her.
This literary work was created in more than one context. The origin of the author plays a leading role in the plot and arrangement of the story. The protagonist appears to be named after the street where her family lives on. However, she has another name within the family, Meimei. It speaks of the fact that the author is dedicated to the ancestors culture. Moreover, she indicates the birth date in the story highlighting the precise historical context in which events take place. One can grasp the idea of Chinatowns in San Francisco in1950s through her story. San Franciscos Chinatown is where mostly ethnic Chinese immigrants live and, therefore, this place preserved authentic Chinese customs, languages and identity. Since there are many restaurants and shops with authentic flavor in that place, it serves as a tourist attraction. There are many tourists who want to come there and get acquainted with Chinese culture. Amy Tan mentions tourists as an inevitable ingredient of their living. She even wonders that there are some places where tourists do not go.
Ethnical context is easy to track in this story too. The status of ethnical minorities is voiced with Waverlys mother. Chinese immigrants have to obey the rules of the country they come to live in. If they do not obey the rules, they can have troubles with the law. That is why the conflict is evident between the ethical minorities and natives. For Americans, Chinese may be nothing more than entertainment for tourists. It is important to mention that economic context is that children think that they are not poor having meals five times a day. The fact is that Chinese people were poor, and it is noticeable from the mothers words about the chess set, Too good. Cost too much. This type of reaction means that Chinese could not afford even such simple things as chess sets for their children. As a result, Chinese people have to work hard to earn money for living. They can do business, medicine, or painting. However, their work is hard like a torture. Sociological context lays in the place Chinese take in American society. In particular, they are lower in the social hierarchy than Americans do. That is why it is important for Waverly to win the chess contest. She says, So as we walked home I said in a small voice that I didn't want to play in the local tournament. They would have American rules. If I lost, I would bring shame on my family. From the cultural point of view, readers get to know about beliefs, cuisine, family life and ways of life in the Chinatowns. It appears that Chinese believe in luck, in curses, and rely heavily upon the wisdom of their ancestors (in proverbs). One can also see the family traditions and hierarchy in the family. According to Chinese code of conduct, children have to obey their parents and elders. Together all these contexts shape the general picture of life in Chinatowns in San Francisco in1950s.
To conclude, Rules of the Game by Amy Tan reveals many challenges of ethnical minorities in 1950s in the United States. Readers get the understanding of economic, sociological and cultural challenges for Chinese people. It is a personal challenge for the author, as well. She challenges patriarchal Chinese society striving for freedom for women. Since this story is taken from the authors memories and experience, readers should appreciate this like a story from a living witness of the events. Lastly, it makes Amy Tans work more precious to the future generations of readers.