The Symbolism of Manipulation in The Rules of the Game, a Short Story by Amy Tan

Topics: Amy Tan

In the reflective short story, “The Rules of the Game”, the way Waverly strategically manipulates her opponents in the game of chess symbolizes the way her mother manipulates her into prioritizing Chinese pride; correspondingly, the author wishes to establish the idea that individuality is difficult to maintain when manipulated by someone of greater authority. As Waverly continues to invest her time into chess strategies and manipulation of the game, she begins to realize that she is being manipulated by her mother and losing her individuality.

Waverly’s mother had always taught her children, “to rise above our circumstances,” so Waverly had lived by her mother’s words to deem herself honorable to the Chinese culture. Her mother places Waverly’s mindset into one that places Chinese pride above all.

When Waverly mentions “Chinese torture,” her mother questions the impossibility of such inhumane act but then later demonstrates her Chinese patriotism by asserting that Chinese people do the “best torture”. The mother’s confidence in the Chinese culture reveals how proud she is to be Chinese and wishes to relay that message to Waverly.

When Waverly’s brother receives the used chess set from the church Christmas party, the mother tells him to throw it away because her pride cannot tolerate her children playing with a toy that even the lady did not want; this is their mother’s way of teaching her children to set their standards high to be a proud Chinese. Ultimately, all of her mother’s life lessons revolve around displaying the Chinese culture as one of supremacy.

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During the outdoor exhibition games, her mother would tell Waverly’s admirers that her winning is just “luck”. The main purpose of her mother disregarding Waverly’s skills is to manipulate her into thinking that she must keep trying harder to live up to the expectations of a Chinese. When a man suggests Waverly to play in a chess tournament, Waverly is reluctant to go because she will “bring shame” to her family if she lost. Her mother’s overpowering control over Waverly’s thoughts is portrayed in the way she considers her family’s pride over her own desires.

As a result of her mother’s manipulation, Waverly begins to lose her individuality. As Waverly becomes more skillful in playing chess and learns many strategies to manipulate her opponents, she starts to notice and “get annoyed” of her mother’s manipulation and controlling attitude, but realizes that she cannot do anything in her power to argue against her mother. Waverly’s controlling mother watches her even when she is just practicing, judging her “every move,” thinking that she is Waverly’s “protective ally,” when in reality, Waverly seeks independence and individuality from her mother. Later in the story, Waverly begins to realize her mother’s intention in boasting about her achievements in chess; her mother utilizes Waverly’s success as the success of the family. During their trips to the market, her mother uses Waverly’s fame to “show off” to everyone. To Waverly, her success in chess represents her own individual achievement rather than the entire family’s. Meanwhile, her mother believes that it is only reasonable to tell everyone about her daughter’s triumph so that their family and the Chinese culture is viewed as honorable.

Waverly finally approaches her mother about the issue but is immediately rejected; her mother took it the wrong way and comprehended that Waverly is ashamed to be with her. Waverly’s anger overcomes her, prompting her to reveal that she despises the way her mother uses her to show off to everyone. Although she wishes to portray her success in chess as her individual accomplishment, she regrets confronting her mother because she relies on her mother to live. Waverly’s growing desire for individuality throughout the journey of her chess career was unattainable due to her reliance on her mother. All her life, Waverly was manipulated by her mother’s philosophy of being honorable to the Chinese culture. The employment of manipulation in the game of chess accurately symbolizes the way Waverly is manipulated by her mother’s teachings. In the end, Waverly was unable to preserve her own individuality because of her mother’s overwhelming control and influence over her life.

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The Symbolism of Manipulation in The Rules of the Game, a Short Story by Amy Tan. (2022, Mar 08). Retrieved from

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