202 Checkmates and Coming of Age

On the surface, 202 Checkmates seems like a story about a girl and her dad’s relationship and how playing chess allowed her to more deeply bond with her father. In reality, it is more of a coming of age story in which the chess allows the girl to see the world and her parents in a new light rather than bringing them closer together. When they first start playing, the girl sees her father as “the god of chess” much like how she probably sees him in her life. She is still very young and hasn’t had much exposure to the outside world and different perspectives. All she knows is her dad’s and her family’s. Initially their chess is very insular. It is just them playing together with no other distractions or inputs from the outside world. It is just their game that they play together. Her father dominates her every time and so he becomes this all knowing figure who could never lose.

Once chess is taken out of their own personal world and into the park is where the coming of age takes place. Realizing that her dad is not perfect and is in fact beatable is the girls awakening to the outside world. Part of coming of age is realizing that your parents are not these all knowing, perfect, god like creatures. They are human and have flaws and there comes a point in every kids life where they begin to see their parents for who they truly are which is simply human and nothing more. After the girl sees her father beaten for the first time her world changes and so does their chess game. She now sees her father’s flaws more clearly and deeply and that he is not only beatable by the outside world but by her as well. Manny is her first true influence outside of her dad and her family and he inadvertently helps her realize these things about her dad. After the father’s huge loss in the park the story really shifts and the girl begins to see the world more clearly. Manny opens her eyes up to moves she had never even considered on the chess board and he does the same to her world.

2 thoughts on “202 Checkmates and Coming of Age

  1. Reid M.

    I agree with your post. In a strange way, it sort of resembles the Freudian model that Jessica Benjamin repudiated. We have the son (or daughter in this case) needing to be separated from the mother (father in this case) by the father (Manny here). It’s almost a perfect inversion of Freud’s idea of maturation, and I wonder if the author intended that.


  2. Khylie A.

    I agree with your post—the story models binary norms and power dynamics. The father/daughter relationship portrayed articulated a power dynamic most are familiar with. The character development showed how Manny grew to realize her father is just human and makes mistakes rather than just put him on a pedestal helping her to see the world more clearly.


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