The Joy Luck Club | Study Guide

Amy Tan

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Course Hero, "The Joy Luck Club Study Guide," February 7, 2017, accessed November 18, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Joy-Luck-Club/.

The Joy Luck Club | Part 2, Chapter 1 : Rules of the Game (Waverly Jong) | Summary

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Summary

Waverly is the youngest of the three Jong children and the only girl. When she is seven her older brother Vincent receives a used chess set at the First Chinese Baptist Church's annual Christmas party. Waverly begs Vincent and Winston to let her play, and soon she is better than both of them. She studies the game of chess relentlessly. In the spring she joins the Chinese men playing chess at a nearby playground. Her partner is Lau Po, and by the summer he has taught her everything he knows. Crowds form when Waverly plays against the adult men, and her mother tells everyone, with Chinese modesty, "Is luck." An onlooker suggests that Waverly enter local chess competitions, but Waverly knows Lindo will never let her "play among strangers." Waverly uses reverse psychology, pretending that she is intimidated by playing in the competitions to get her mother to push her to play competitively.

At her first tournament Waverly's mother slips a small red jade tablet into Waverly's pocket for luck. Waverly takes home the trophy, but her mother insists she "do better" next time and not lose so many pieces to her competitor. Waverly tries to explain the idea behind sacrificing individual pieces to win in the end, but her mother isn't interested. Waverly plays in more and more tournaments. The Chinese bakery below their apartment displays her trophies in their window, and several local businesses sponsor her trips to national competitions.

By the time she is nine Waverly is a national chess champion, and she's featured in Life magazine. She no longer has to do chores at home, but she's expected to practice chess more than ever. Her mother watches every practice, which makes it hard for Waverly to concentrate. Even worse are the weekly trips to the market, where Waverly's mother introduces Waverly to everyone they meet. Waverly loses her patience one Saturday and tells her mother she doesn't like being paraded around Chinatown. "If you want to show off, then why don't you learn to play chess," she says before running away from her mother. She sits in an empty alley for two hours before going home. When she arrives her mother instructs the rest of the family not to pay any attention to her since "this girl not have concerning for us." In her room that night Waverly imagines a giant chess board. Her opponent is her mother.

Analysis

Chess is an apt metaphor for Lindo and Waverly's relationship, at least from Waverly's point of view. From an early age Waverly is locked in an invisible battle between her mother's will and her own. Waverly wants to be the best at chess, but she also wants her success to be entirely her own. She doesn't understand Lindo's constant hovering is a form of support, nor does she see how proud her mother is of her. As a nine-year-old Waverly views her success as being entirely of her own creation with no outside influence or assistance. She does not appreciate the many activities behind the scenes that contribute to her success: her brothers doing her chores, her mother securing sponsors and accompanying her to various tournaments.

Instead of appreciating her mother's support Waverly becomes annoyed each time Lindo offers advice. When Lindo tells her to "win more, lose less," Waverly chalks it up to Lindo not understanding the need to "lose pieces to get ahead." But it is Lindo, more than anyone, who knows the necessity of sacrifice to win the game. She sacrificed her own desires by marrying Tyan-yu in order to honor her family, then sacrificed her position as the daughter-in-law of a wealthy family in order to achieve happiness. In her experience, winning always comes at a price. Lindo's advice, "better to lose less," isn't just about chess—it's about life. Lindo has firsthand experience with the price of sacrifice, and she doesn't want Waverly to suffer the way she did as a young woman. She wants her daughter to "rise above [her] circumstances" without the baggage of suffering and regret. Lindo isn't just telling Waverly how to win her next game, she's telling her how to get ahead in life.

The red jade tablet Lindo gives Waverly is the same one Lindo's mother gave Lindo before she went to live with the Huangs. Red jade is traditionally associated with the energy of the warrior, and it's thought to ease fear of competition and encourage fortitude against difficult challenges. Lindo's mother gives it to her to give her strength as she embarks on her life with her new family, and Lindo gives it to Waverly as a good luck charm before her first competition game. After Waverly gets the tablet she feels "a light wind ... blowing past [her] ears." Like Lindo on her wedding day, Waverly understands that like the wind she can harness her invisible inner powers to crush her opponents with no advance notice. Though she takes great pains to establish herself as a separate person from her mother, they are intrinsically alike.

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