The Joy Luck Club
Amy Tan
Contributed by Vernita Mires
Section 2 - Waverly Jong

Waverly Jong is the daughter of Lindo Jong, the narrator from The Red Candle. Waverly serves as the narrator of this chapter, recalling her childhood in Chinatown in San Francisco. She tells how she lived with her parents and her brothers in a modest apartment above a bakery. She also remembers loving the sights and sounds of Chinatown. 

One Christmas, Waverly received a box containing twelve rolls of Lifesavers as a present. She was disappointed in the gift and believed that her brothers’ presents were far superior. One of them received an intricate set of plastic building parts; the other brother received a chess set.

With intensity, Waverly watched her brothers play chess, teaching herself the rules in the process. When she began to play the game, she investigated strategies, did research on plays, and carefully planned the moves necessary to defeat her opponents. Long after her brothers lost interest in the game, she continued to play chess and became quite skilled. She enrolled in and won several tournaments. By the time she was nine years old, she was a national chess champion and was featured in Life magazine. 

Waverly’s mother became her cheerleader and coach, but she was also her disciplinarian. She taught her daughter “the art of invisible strength;” its lesson was that Waverly was in charge of her own destiny. If she was not successful, she only had herself to blame; if she were going to succeed, she would have to work hard. Waverly took her mother’s lesson to heart and became determined to be successful at chess and in life.

Waverly’s mother was excessively proud of Waverly’s success. During Saturday shopping trips, Lindo paraded her daughter about like a living trophy. Waverly hated her mother’s outrageous pride and boasting. One day she became so frustrated that she ran away from her, hiding almost the entire day. When she finally returned home, her mother and the rest of her family ignored her, acting as if she did not exist. Waverly went to her room and imagined herself engaged in a life-sized game of chess, where she fought the invisible opponent - her mother. In truth, however, Lindo is not really her opponents. She is the one who has taught Waverly the “art of invisible strength,” a method of believing in oneself and succeeding in life. 


Rules of the Game is actually a chapter about the rules of chess, as well as the rules of life. Waverly is the product of an ambitious mother who always pushed her only daughter. At an early age, Lindo taught Waverly that she was in charge of her own destiny; by working hard, she could be successful in life. Following her mother’s advice, Waverly works hard at anything she undertakes. When she teaches herself to play chess, she learns the rules, researches strategies, and carefully plans her moves. She is so successful at chess that she is featured in Life magazine. Lindo Jong is excessively proud of her daughter and takes credit for her success.

One morning Waverly has had enough of her mother’s boasting about her and runs away for the rest of the day. When she returns home, her mother and the rest of the family ignore her, as if she did not exist. Waverly is so frustrated that she goes to her room and imagines herself engaged in a game of chess against “two angry black slits” that represent her mother’s angry eyes. In this game of mental chess, Waverly has the ability to control the moves of both her mother and herself. She enjoys defeating her mother in the game of chess; but she knows that she cannot defeat her in life, Waverly she has been entirely shaped by Lindo Jong. This theme of parental influence on their children is developed throughout the novel. 

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