Games at Twilight

by Anita Desai

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Does Ravi experience nihilism in "Games at Twilight"?

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Nihilism is a doctrine that maintains that nothing has any real existence. Nihilists therefore reject religious and political truth claims as being false. However, when we think of Ravi and his experience in this excellent short story, it is clear that he does not have a nihilistic experience. Nihilistic protagonists are often completely indifferent to what goes on around them and their fate, because they recognise how utterly unimportant it all is. When we think of Ravi, it is clear that he is anything but indifferent to what happens to him at the end of the story. Note how he is described by the narrator at the end of the tale when he realises how he has been forgotten by his friends:

He felt his heart go heavy and ache inside him unbearably. He lay down full length on the damp grass, crushing his face into it, no longer crying, silenced by a terrible sense of his insignificance.

Thus we can see that Ravi does not gain a nihilistic sense that everything around him is all illusory. Likewise he does not meet what happens to him with indifference. He experiences a kind of emotional death that forces him to mature and realise his own insignificance, but we cannot say that this is a nihilistic experience.

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