Critical Essay

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Course: English
Assignment : Critical Essay

Topic: To what extent is the protagonist conditioned by his or her physical and social environment?

“Rules of the Game” is a short story by Amy Tan about a young Chinese immigrant girl, Waverly in 1950s, when people from China immigrated to America seeking better living prospects. The story is set in the modest physical and social settings of Chinatown in America, where the protagonist Waverly resides with her family. Waverly’s mother expects her daughter to “rise above” her circumstances for the social advancement in the society. From a humble background Waverly rises to become a celebrity chess champion, but in the process falls into predicament with her conservative mother. The physical and social settings in the story play a significant role in influencing Waverly’s transformation from an ordinary child to a whiz kid “china town champion” and her conflicting differences with her mother, her “protective ally”.

Waverly is very satisfied with her surroundings. She grows up playing in the “back alleys of restaurants and curio shops” (p. 1423) of china town like most of the Chinese children. Living in her modest “two bedroom flat” above a small Chinese bakery, she is content, and makes no complaints when her flat fills with heavy “odor of fried sesame balls and sweet curried chicken”, rather she considers herself fortunate. “Five course meals everyday in my bowl.” (p.1423). As a child, Waverly is in unison with her humble physical surroundings, though her mother thinks opposite to her.

Waverly’s mother, being an immigrant realizes the economic and social challenges of immigrants. She persistently encourages her children to “rise above”. “My mother imparted her daily truths to help us.” (p. 1423). To extend social acceptance, she names Waverly after the street name where they live on: “Waverly Place Jong , my official name….” (p. 1424). In an instance, when Waverly asks...
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