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The Mother-Daughter Power Struggle

How does the antagonist in the story chosen contribute to the story’s overall meaning?

Amy Tan’s one of the prominent literary exponents “Rules of the Game” has been chosen and the essay takes a close perusal of how far the antagonist, Lindo contributes to the course of her daughter, Waverly Jong’s life. It illustrates a binary tussle between the protagonist Waverly Jong and the antagonist Lindo and is a twofold contention in the sense the narrator portrays a Chinese American family seen to have caught between continual dilemmas as well as the subtle power strife between a mother and a daughter (Wong). As a Chinese immigrant in America the mother, Lindo is busy in providing an ideal Chinese upbringing to her daughter Waverly while on the other hand; the story upholds a grave issue of mother-daughter tussle, where Lindo is ever conscious of the power that she exercises as a mother on her daughter. In this sense, by many Lindo has been viewed as the antagonist in the story aggravating the complications in her daughter’s life due to some of her own preconceived notions.

The chess set received by Waverly’s brother from the Chinese Santa Claus can be viewed as the turning point for the Jongs as it interests greatly the Jong brothers and especially Waverly. She develops a consistent winning streak, which however, unconsciously makes her mother jealous; this becomes even more evident in Lindo’s attempts to fade her daughter’s genuine talent by telling people about the mere luck factor working behind her wins (Wong). Concentrating on the first major theme of generating a sense of ‘other’ in a foreign land, Lindo and her daughter Waverly seem to be stuck between two cultures especially because living in Chinatown of San Francisco magnifies this sense of disintegration to them even more (Fickle). Chess becomes the sole respite or window to Waverly that allows her integrate in the society of United States (Zhang).

Amy Tan is renowned for deftly handling the nuances of mother-daughter relationships especially when it comes to be of Chinese American origin. In this story, she incorporates the themes of power equation, manipulation, along with freedom and confinement in this tussle (Wong). Both Lindo and Waverly remain busy in manipulating each other in order to climb into each other’s heads and as a result, Waverly learns the art of manipulation at a very early age from her mother. Their continual schemes of manipulating each other only increase alienation and a deep feeling of hurt between them also signifying in this context, the role of honesty functioning inside the game of chess. While at one hand, Waverly views chess as the source of her freedom, her mother’s growing expectations turns her newly gained delight into a prison seizing her childhood innocence of her on the other. Lindo wants her daughter to be entirely dependent on her even for trivial common things like salted plums, her psychological and physical well-being and strikingly tends to bar Waverly from defining and nurturing her unique mental power in the form of chess (Bloom).

Turning to the tussle between Asian and American values, Amy Tan emphasizes the contrast between two cultures in terms of attributing a person’s achievement. While the American values admit individual’s efforts and credits behind success, Asians tend to emphasize communal and familial acclaim behind the achievement (Fickle). The implicit mother-daughter conflict has thus been viewed in a broader social perspective where Amy Tan has justly detailed the hazards of being caught between two distinct values and heritage (Wong).

According to Chinese familial values, Waverly’s brothers Winston and Victor having significance of their own names are supposed to emerge as the family’s principal achievers whereas Waverly would have appropriated her role in the family as merely a backdrop (Bloom). However, it is the feminine figure; the little sister of the family who does justice with the chess set that was initially designed for her big brother. Lindo victimized by the ideal feminine notions, too is seen to fortify this patriarchy mistreating her daughter (Zhang).

Concentrating on all the points, therefore, we can conclude that Lindo, as a mother cannot be categorized as the conventional antagonists since she herself is the victim of being an idealized Asian cultured woman. Most importantly, she becomes a woman who is made to look for some source of power in the boundaries of her household where she can have the desired access. For Waverly, rules imply the ones enforced on her by her mother while for Lindo the meaning of rules extends to the intercultural standards that singled her out as an outsider and did not allow her unite with the American society until she learned to adopt them before entering into the country.  

References:

Bloom, Harold. Amy Tan. Infobase Publishing, 2014.

Fickle, Tara. "American Rules and Chinese Faces: The Games of Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club." MELUS: Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States 39.3 (2014): 68-88.

Wong, Sau-ling Cynthia. "“Sugar Sisterhood”: Situating the Amy Tan Phenomenon." Amy Tan (2014): 49-83.

Zhang, Jun. "Cultural Ties in Amy Tan’s Works." Contemporary English Teaching and Learning in Non-English-Speaking Countries 3.5 (2014): 55-61.

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