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Games at Twilight - Notes

Games At Twilight was written by Anita Desai. The story is about a young boy named Ravi,
who is misunderstood by his siblings and cousins which makes him feel insignificant. The
day starts off boiling hot. the children desperate to go out " that they burst out like seeds
from a crakling, over- ripe pod," they start their day off by playing games such as ' Hide and
Seek,' but Raghu the older brother was the seeker. And Ravi was one of the hiders. Ravi hid
in a shed, "it was dark, spooky in the shed," and Ravi stayed there for a very long time. He
was not found, but after a while he realized to win the game, you have to touch the 'Den.'
He came out of the shed fast and ran and shouted out, " Den, Den,Den." Everyone looked at
him with amazement. The 'motherly' Mira said " Stop it, Stop it, Stop it, Ravi, Don't be a
baby." Ravi made himself think that he won, but no one agreed or did not even bother
looking for him. " he is silenced by a terrible sense of his insignificance." "Cause by the
ignominy (public shame or disgrace) of being forgotten." Ravi was looking forward to
winning but was heartbroken when the other children left him out. Games At Twilight
highlights the effects of exclusion towards the people. Ravi is a pariah (outcast) in the family
because the other children don't see him as being important.

The story is set in summer in India. In the house it is very stuffy and hot, when they go out
to the veranda, it is very hot and humid. The shed that Ravi when to hide in was dark,
creepy and scary. " the shed smelt of rats, ant hills, dust and spider webs."

Mira - sister, motherly figure.
Raghu - aggressive, violent and animalistic. "charged after him with a blood curdling yell."
Ravi - main character. suffers from ignominy. social pariah. youngest child.
Mother - tries to be strict but does not seem to have much control over the children.

Themes and Meanings

The core of the story is the “business of the children’s day – play”. And though the
games seem innocent enough, they expose the savage brutality of children’s
treatment of each other.
Loss of innocence
At the end of the story Ravi learns how insignificant and unimportant he is in the
hierarchy of his world when his triumphal victory turn to ignominious defeat.
Family: The theme of “Games at Twilight” is the struggle of individuals to find
themselves in the face of familial and societal pressures. Salman Rushdie identifies
Desai’s characters as isolated figures. Her works explore the choices made by people
who feel profoundly different from those around them.

Fantasy versus reality.
Because “Game s at Twilight” deals primarily with children at play, this is one of its
main themes. This theme is symbolically reflected in the title, as the word “twilight”
suggests an interplay of light and shadow, blurring the distinction between reality
and fantasy. Dealing with a crucial stage in the psychological development of a self-
conscious young boy, the story derives its strength from an imaginative application
of Sigmund Freud’s well-known theory that a child’s play is motivated by a single
wish to be “big and grown up” and that every dream or fantasy is a wish-fulfillment,
generated essentially by the desire to correct unsatisfying reality. Ravi is clearly
unsatisfied with the reality of his present circumstances. A sensitive and imaginative
child, he acutely feels the inferiority of his status as reflected in the rude and
aggressive behaviour of his older siblings who remind him that he is nothing but a
baby. At the onset of the game a scuffle ensues between them, and Ravi’s shirt
sleeve is torn. When he cannot reach the garage key hanging on the nail, he wishes
he were big and tall, but he is helplessly aware of the reality that it will be years
before he can reach that stage.
It's a possible Desai could be making parallels between Ravi's experience and the
experience of the Indian people after the British withdrew from India.

Raghu is a metaphor for the British: he is a bully who misuses his physical might and
intimidation, controlling the other children, who are clearly subservient to his
authority. However, Like Britain, he is a distant power, who soon grows bored with
overseeing all of the children, reflected in the way he quickly moves on from Ravi's
hiding place. Ravi then represents the Indian people (or possibly the future of the
Indian people). After Raghu's withdrawal, he is left alone, to his own devices.
Eventually, his lack of any structured support is reinforced by the fact that he is left
to ponder a future without hope, which offers only death; he is ultimately isolated
and forgotten with no intervention, reflecting the chaos and death that ensued
when the British left India.

It could be also be argued that the adults represent the British Empire - distant but
all powerful figures who do not really interact with the children/Indian people, other
than briefly trying to divert their attention from the frustrations of their existence.
Raghu therefore represents the threat of mob rule - how the dominant in society will
rule and intimidate through physical might and the fear of violence, reflecting the
chaos and violence that occurred after the British withdrew so quickly, taking no
responsibility for what happened. Ravi tries to hide initially from this threat, then re-
emerges to join with the other children in celebration, representing the unification
of the Indian people. However, society has become cruel and uncaring; the future
offers only death and isolation - there is no support or empathy from the

Style and Technique
Desai is a consummate artist known for her distinctive style and rich, sensuous imagery. Her
diction is highly formalized and sophisticated. In her own account, though writing comes to
her naturally, she works consciously, laboriously, and meticulously to impose a design on
the chaotic raw material of life. She regards writing as a process of discovering the truth,
which is, for the most part, hidden beneath the surfaces of what people see, say, and do.
Because her professed interest in fiction has always been a psychological exploration of the
human mind, she does not give much importance to the plot. Instead, she reveals the
interior landscapes of her characters’ minds.

In “Games at Twilight,” Desai provides a psychological exploration of the protagonist’s mind

by delving into his childhood fears, emotions, perceptions, desires, and thought processes.
Her narrative strategy of shifting the omniscient point of view to the limited third-person
vantage allows the reader to gain leisurely insights into the inner workings of Ravi’s mind.
A distinctive aspect of Desai’s style is her use of graphic description and vivid imagery. The
story contains a number of memorable descriptions. The opening paragraph describes the
oppressive and suffocating environment in the house. The second and the third paragraphs
dramatize the impact of searing heat outside by painting a verbal picture of listless life in
the garden through a series of visual images and vivid similes. Her microscopic description
of the dark shed is meticulous in concrete details. Finally, her evocative and poetic
description of twilight is characterized by soft and sensuous imagery appealing to all the
bodily senses.

The setting of the story is not only descriptive but also evocative and symbolic. Desai uses
many details of the setting to evoke an atmosphere of intense and oppressive heat, which
serves as a symbolic background to rising human conflict. The setting also forms an integral
part of the action. The garden, the shed, the veranda, and the lawn, all play an important
part in shaping the action of the story.

Notes From:

See Also: (Filmed in India. Starts at 3 min.)