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Critical Analysis of Amy Tan's Story “Rules of the Games”

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Amy Tan is a Chinese American writer and novelist, whose works explore mother-daughter relationships and the Chinese-American experience. Her story. “Rules of the games” is partly inspired by the stories of her own family. In this story, Amy Tan uses chess as a tool of symbolism to show the damage caused by toxic, controlling relationships among family members, reflecting the way the character was degraded, and experienced a life different than her peers due to the bad treatment she received from her mother. This is a critical tool, where the whole story merrily revolves around, her mother Tan makes chess a strong force that allows her daughter; Waverly to gain confidence. Throughout the story, it is shown that her mom wants a better life for Waverly, however, she yields the exact opposite.

The idea of helping her daughter to become fiercer leads to obsessively controlling her, which resulted in passive-aggressive attitudes being cultivated in Waverly. Like a Jedi knight, Waverly acquires power from chess, to a point where lead a grown up playing with her sweat like racehorses. “His sweaty brow seemed to weep at my every move,” she said. Waverly was an expert at this game, although her mother wasn’t very keen about it at first, but after she saw how fast and good she was becoming at it, she was encouraging her to keep on practicing to the point where Waverly got out of chores. However, the more her mother encouraged her to play, and the better she became at the game, the more freedom her mom takes away from her. “The alleys contained no escape routes” she quotes. Waverly finds herself trapped, she is uncertain of her next move. It takes away a lot of other things she used to do unfortunately. She is focusing too much on the game, losing her sense of time and spending her whole day playing it.

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Most importantly, Waverly loses everything else in her childhood, to the point where she doesn’t really have any childhood left. Her mother, Tan, was able to notice that. She makes a reference early on, how Waverly “carefully drew a handmade chessboard and pinned it to the wall next to my bed, where I would stare for hours at imaginary battles”. Later on, Waverly makes it clear that the game is blocking out details of everything in the world around her. For example, “The boy disappeared, the color ran out of the room, and I saw only my white pieces and his black ones waiting on the other side” We can infer from the story that she gains a lot, but chess consumes a lot from her, it takes her out of her life. Even more importantly, the chess portrays the relationship of Waverly with her Mom. Both of them, are constantly engaged in head games, trapped in a battle. Her mom keeps on criticizing her, thinking this would help her strive to become a better version of herself, on the contrary, it ruins their relationship, breeding toxicity and competition among them.

During the story, Amy Tan said: “ The alleys contained no escape routes” identifying that chess was the life of Waverly, instead of getting her mother in checkmate, Waverly finds herself trapped doubting her next move. This culture of competition and passive-aggressiveness is bred not only in China or in the US but also worldwide. Anywhere in the world, you will find this type of relationship between a mother and her daughter or even between a father and his son. Sometimes parents think that this is a form of love, but oppositely, it is not. It cultivates hatred within children. They stop feeling safe in their homes, this will affect their mental state on many levels. Unfortunately, these children growing up in a dysfunctional family have no absolute control over their lifestyle, they are emotionally scarred due to repeated trauma and pain from the words spoken by their parents. Consequently, they will grow very differently, and will lack nurturement for their individual selves. They will stop enjoying their childhood to the fullest, as seen in the story with Waverly. These children tend to grow up practicing very destructive behaviors such as the consumption of alcohol, drugs, or they treat their children with the same exact treatment they encountered.

They also find it extremely difficult to build and sustain friendships, or relationships, keeping an optimistic attitude and accepting their reality and feelings. They oppress their feelings within them, causing even further internal emotional damage. It is clear now, how much parents affect their children. Waverly’s mother was extremely proud of her, however influenced her badly, she confined her, and scarred her forever. She forced her to walk with her in the community’ crowded market place against her will, this drove Waverly to struggle to live up to her mother’s standards. And When Waverly confronts her mother about her oppressive personality, her mom reacted by directing the family and saying “ We’re not concerning this girl. This girl not have concerning us” Waverly ran away, regretting offending her mother. Afterwards, she comes back home, and begins plotting her next move to defeat her mother. Waverly finally decided to challenger her mother’s authoriative controlling guardianship, so she begins to plan to defeat her mother by using the “art of invisible strength” This story depicts how every child has to live up to the standards of their parents in order to satisfy them, but they forget to satisfy themselves, they forget that they are children and the only thing they should care and think about is the next meal they are going to have. She should be able to practice her hobby with no confinments, no one nagging above her neck. She should not think of how she is going to defeat her mother, on the contrary, she deserves a loving mother who supports her whether she competes in tournaments or practice chess solely as a hobby.

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Critical Analysis of Amy Tan’s Story “Rules of the Games”. (2022, July 14). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 5, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/critical-analysis-of-amy-tans-story-rules-of-the-games/
“Critical Analysis of Amy Tan’s Story “Rules of the Games”.” Edubirdie, 14 Jul. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/critical-analysis-of-amy-tans-story-rules-of-the-games/
Critical Analysis of Amy Tan’s Story “Rules of the Games”. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/critical-analysis-of-amy-tans-story-rules-of-the-games/> [Accessed 5 Mar. 2024].
Critical Analysis of Amy Tan’s Story “Rules of the Games” [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Jul 14 [cited 2024 Mar 5]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/critical-analysis-of-amy-tans-story-rules-of-the-games/
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