The Girl Who Conquered Chess

Waverly Place Jong, the protagonist of the short story Rules of the Game, by Amy Tan, is a young, Chinese-American girl who’s personality and attitude can only be described as ambiguous. The following paragraphs include excerpts from the story, personal opinions, judgements, and analyses. They begin to describe her character as a whole and hope to provide the reader with valuable insights into Waverly’s thoughts, beliefs, and behavior.

Waverly Jong is an extremely mischievous, quintessentially annoying girl who enjoys playing sly tricks upon her family.
“One day, as she struggled to weave a hard-toothed comb through my disobedient hair, I had a sly thought…” (Tan, 1)
In this sentence, it is made clear to the reader the intricacies of Waverly’s thoughts, and the goals she wishes to achieve through her mischievousness. It paints a picture of the impishness and wayward behavior present within Waverly.
“’Who say this word?” she asked without a trace of knowing how wicked I was being…” (Tan, 2)
With this sentence, the author describes Waverly’s vexatious behavior in an almost stereotypical manner, allowing the reader to clearly understand and process her personality, and how she utilizes the annoyance of her victim against themselves.

Secondly, Waverly is extremely observant and expertly picks out relevant information to her benefit.
The excerpt “Having watched the older children opening their gifts, I already knew that the big gifts were not necessarily the nicest ones. The sound of the box was also important… As I peered into the sack, I quickly fingered the remaining presents, testing their weight, imagining what they contained.” (Tan, 2) shows how Waverly’s informative and relevant observations aid her in specific situations and provide her with endless benefits.
“My parents made many concessions to allow me to practice. One time I complained that the bedroom I shared was so noisy that I couldn’t think. Thereafter, my brothers slept in a bed in the living room facing the street… ” (Tan, 5) This paragraph exhibits Waverly’s uncanny ability to formulate observations on the imperceptible. It allows her to see beyond the obvious, and appreciate the finer details of life.

In addition, Waverly Jong possesses a sui generis ability to utilize her imagination to her benefit. In pages 4 and 6 of Rules of the Game, the author writes:
“A light wind began blowing past my ears. It whispered secrets only I could hear.
Blow from the South,” it murmured. “The wind leaves no trail.” I saw a clear path, the traps to avoid… The wind blew stronger. “Throw sand from the East to distract him.” The knight came forward ready for the sacrifice. The wind hissed, louder and louder. “Blow, blow, blow. He cannot see. He is blind now. Make him lean away from the wind so he is easier to knock down.”” (Tan, 4)
And,“In my head, I saw a chessboard with sixty-four black and white squares. Opposite me was my opponent, two angry black slits. She wore a triumphant smile. “Strongest wind cannot be seen,” she said. Her black men advanced across the plane, slowly marching to each successive level as a single unit. My white pieces screamed as they scurried and fell off the board one by one. As her men drew closer to my edge, I felt myself growing light. I rose up into the air and flew out the window. Higher and higher, above the alley, over the tops of tiled roofs, where I was gathered up by the wind and pushed up toward the night sky until everything below me disappeared and I was alone.” (Tan, 6) The author’s style in these paragraphs truly embeds within the reader a sense of Waverly’s creativity. It incorporates a clever use of onomatopoeia and an incredibly free-flowing fashion, allowing us a deeper understanding of Waverly’s true character, while also utilizing figurative speech to describe her emotions.

Finally, plausibly the most evident characteristic of Waverly Jong is her passion for chess and her experience of the subject.
“I read the rules and looked up all the big words in a dictionary. I borrowed books from the Chinatown library. I studied each chess piece, trying to absorb the power each contained… I learned why it is essential in the endgame to have foresight, a mathematical understanding of all possible moves, and patience; all weaknesses and advantages become evident to a strong adversary and are obscured to a tiring opponent.” (Tan, 3)
“I loved the secrets I found within the sixty-four black and white squares. I carefully drew a handmade chessboard and pinned it to the wall next to my bed, where I would stare for hours at imaginary battles.” (Tan, 3)
These excerpts from the story support the claim, in that it begins to introduce to the reader Waverly’s gradually increasing interest in chess, and her passion for understanding the sport and all of its intricacies.
“Soon I no longer lost any games or Life Savers, but I lost my adversaries.” (Tan, 3) This short sentence may not seem to be of much importance, yet it is vital to the plot of the story. It quite ingeniously exhibits Waverly’s improvement in chess, while also displaying her creativity. However, the most important phrase in the sentence, “but I lost my adversaries,” paints an important picture within the readers head. Its word choice acquaints the reader with an extremely simple point: As the world moves on, Waverly still continues with chess. It signifies Waverly’s passion and willingness to work hard to master the art of chess.
“I attended more tournaments, each one farther away from home. I won all games, in all divisions.” (Tan, 4)
Finally, this sentence allows the author to wrap up this section of the story, exhibiting how Waverly has improved vastly, to a national level, and shows how hard-work and practice are vital to mastering any subject or art; it promotes determination and a never give up attitude.

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