How many nine-year-old chess prodigies are there in the world? Not many, but one just casually happens to reside in Waverly Place of San Francisco. Amy Tan’s short story “Rules of the Game” introduces readers to a unique protagonist through the means of characterization, who possesses some traits that I can relate to.
Waverly Jong, a child of the age of nine, may be small, but she has the mind of an experienced strategist. She tends to be very observant: “Having watched the older children opening their gifts, I already knew that the big gifts were not necessarily the nice ones” (Tan 3). She also notices other’s actions and is able to describe them very clearly, saying, “[My mother] scanned the pages quickly, not reading the foreign English symbols, seeming to search for nothing in particular” (5). The skill of observation is crucial in the game of chess and even in war, as only by watching others you will be able to react accordingly and predict what is next. Waverly seemed to already have this characteristic before she started playing chess, along with the sense of curiousness. Although she knows nothing about the game at first, she still has the irresistible urge to find a reason for the rules. Her brother does not take Waverly’s inquisitiveness so lightly and is annoyed by her questions. “‘Why must you always ask stupid questions?’ … ‘These are the rules. I didn’t make them up’” (pages 4 and 5). Learning from this, Waverly now understands the importance of curiosity, as it may lead to even greater things. Despite the silent opinions that others may have of her, she is unhindered and continues to discover more fascinating secrets of the game. Lau Po did not think of much of the girl when the two first meet, almost mocking her: “Little girl, been a long time since I play with dolls.” To prove her capabilities, Waverly willingly gives up many long weeks and countless Life Savers to learn all of Lau Po’s secrets. Although appearing to be shy and submissive, Waverly shows a large amount of confidence and perseverance throughout her story, a true sign of a potential leader.
Some of Waverly’s characteristics are aligned to those of mine. Like her, I tend to observe the world around me and notice things that might be overlooked by others. Although I am not a chess grandmaster, my thinking process is similar to the protagonist’s; I come up with solutions to little problems one by one, slowly simplifying the situation until there are only a few possibilities left. This, coincidentally, is the process of a regular chess game. Although the topic of Waverly’s story is based upon chess, the characteristics of both her and me do not only apply to chess and prove to be useful in a wide array of circumstances.
Image Citation: Mondy, Russell. “Waverly Place, San Francisco.” Flickr, Yahoo!, 13 Nov. 2016, www.flickr.com/photos/v63/22780796898/.