Amy Tan, in "Rules of the Game" and Alice Walker, in "Everyday Use" investigate the relationships between mothers and daughters, relationships that the authors find compelling in and of themselves and that they also find to be illuminative of the larger conflicts between past and future, tradition and progress, the Old World and the New. Both writers root their stories within a specific ethnic tradition, but both are also engaged in that retelling of the universal that is intrinsic to the storyteller's art. Each story is both that of a specific type of mother-daughter relationship - Chinese-American or African-American - but is also the story of all generational change and conflict in all places and all times.
"Rules of the Game" is one of the semi-autonomous sections of The Joy Luck Club, which as a novel tells multi-layered stories about the different ways in daughters and mothers love each other, and the ways in which their different conceptions of past and future have the power to tear each other apart. Tan writes - in this novel and in other works - about how Chinese immigrants to the United States (in this book, the generation of the mothers) continue to have a concept of culture that is rooted in the land of their childhood. The mothers in this book never cease to be essentially Chinese while the daughters - including June Waverly, the narrator of this section - understand their lives in terms of American dreams, American goals.
In "Rules of the Game", Tan uses the game of chess as a metonym for this larger struggle between a mother's concept of culture as rooted in another country and a daughter's sense of herself as American. June's mother summarizes the importance of knowing the rules of American life - rules that she herself can never master, rules that she wants her daughter to have control over (even as she also desperately wants her to be Chinese as well).
"This American rules," she concluded at last. "Every ti...