Games at Twilight

by Anita Desai

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Comment on the use of imagery in "Games at Twilight."

In "Games at Twilight," imagery plays an important role in conveying the atmosphere of the late summer day when the story is set. Desai involves the senses into her descriptions of the waning heat in the evening and how the weather affects the characters. Her imagery especially reveals the interaction between the setting and the emotional states of Ravi, the protagonist.

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Throughout "Games at Twilight," Anita Desai uses imagery to connect the summer day when the story’s action takes place with the emotional qualities of the characters' experiences. Imagery involves an author’s use of the five senses to make a memorable impression on the reader. In this story, although vision predominates, tactile and auditory images have almost equal weight. Desai initially contrasts the stifling interior environment to the liberation the children feel upon being allowed outdoors. At various points in the story, she uses all five senses, thereby conveying the sensations that the heat creates in the body. As the narrative continues, sensory impressions also reveal Ravi’s emotional as well as physical reactions while hiding in the dark, gloomy shed.

The third-person narrator offers extensive descriptions that often uses similes and metaphors to create the images. An example of combined visual and tactile imagery using a simile compares the children to seeds: “They burst out like seeds from a crackling, overripe pod into the veranda.” A metaphor describing the dog emphasizes vision but is also tactile in referencing motion: “His eyes … [were] two white marbles rolling in the purple sockets.”

The contrasts between light and dark and between sound and silence grow increasingly important as Ravi is separated from the group. As the twilight advances and the daylight fades, he hides in a dark shed. The children’s loud voices as they play and argue and Raghu’s whistle as he searches for the hidden children are all prominent. Once Ravi enters the shed, he must be silent to avoid detection. The sense of smell is also used to evoke the unpleasant atmosphere inside, and the sense of touch conveys his fear, especially of animals that may lurk there:

It was dark, spooky in the shed. It had a muffled smell, as of graves. ... What might there not be to touch him and feel him as he stood there, trying to see in the dark? Something cold, or slimy—like a snake.

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