Rules of the Game – Literary Background I. Setting

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Rules of the Game – Literary Background

I. Setting:

  • Mid to late 20th century

  • Chinatown, in San Francisco, California. Chinatown is a predominantly Chinese neighborhood, generally poor and crowded. There are many of these ethnic neighborhoods dubbed as "Chinatown" in the United States, though the five major ones are in: NYC, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Jose (pronounced San Hosay), and Chicago.

  • A clean and tidy two-bedroom apartment on Waverley Place above a Chinese bakery.

II. Characters: Discuss the function of the characters in the story and how they are used to develop the plot.

Main Characters:

  • Waverley

  • Mrs. Jong

Secondary characters:

  • Mr. Jong

  • Vincent

Tertiary characters:

  • Neighbors

  • Opponents

III. Literary devices: Discuss how they are used in our story.

  • Foreshadowing

  • Point of view

  • Conflict

  • Irony

  • Metaphor

  • Climax

  • Turning point

  • Denouement or anti-climax

  • Resolution

Study Questions

  1. Explain the meaning of each quote below. What is the context? Who says it, and to whom? What can we, the readers, understand from it?

  1. Write which HOTS helped you explain it (comparing and contrasting, distinguishing different perspectives, explaining cause and effect, explaining patterns, inferring, problem solving), and why you chose that particular thinking skill.

  1. "Bite back your tongue"…(line 6 or p. 57 line 4)

  1. "Why does she get to play and we do all the work?" (p. 68 line 21)

  1. "Ma, it's not how many pieces you lose. Sometimes you have to lose pieces to get ahead." (pg. 68, line 3)

  1. “Is shame you fall down nobody push you.” (line 179 or p. 67, line12)

  1. "Lost eight pieces this time. Last time was eleven. What I tell you? Better off lose less." (line 199 or p. 68, line 8)

  1. My mother’s eyes turned into dangerous black slits. She had no words for me, just sharp silence. (line 259 or p. 72, line 19)

  1. “Strongest wind cannot be seen,” she said. (line 287 or p.57, line 8)

  2. As her men drew closer to my edge, I felt myself growing light. I rose up into the air and flew out the window… until everything below me disappeared and I was alone. (line 290 or p. 73, line 29)

Understanding the story:

  1. What is it about chess that attracts Waverly?

  1. Why does Waverly think her mother will not allow her to play in chess tournaments?

  1. What concessions do her parents make to allow her to practice chess? Name TWO. What status does this give her in the family? How do you think her brothers feel about this?

  1. How does Waverly dress for competitions, and why does she dress this way?

Looking deeper:

The theme of cultural conflict

  1. a. At the Christmas party, when a boy expresses his disappointment over the present he received, his mother slaps him and apologizes to everyone as they leave. What does this show us about the Chinese culture?

b. Find and explain another example in the story of how a character’s behavior shows us something about the Chinese culture.

c. When Waverly says to Mrs. Jong, “If you want to show off, then why don’t you learn to play chess?” how does her statement reflect the difference between American and Chinese cultures?

Practice Essay Question (80-100 words)
A frequent theme in Amy Tan’s writing is the complex relationship between mothers and daughters.

Explain how this statement is relevant to "Rules of the Game". Support your answer with examples from the story.

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