In the story "Games at Twilight," what are the internal and external conflicts?

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Susie Cochrane eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Internal conflict in literature means a psychological struggle in a character, whereas external conflict is when a character, usually the protagonist, is pitted against another character (his/her antagonist), or nature, or an idea, or something supernatural. (You can find more information here.)

The external conflict at the start of Desai’s short story is the "confinement" the children have had to endure and their desperation to escape outside to play. Desai uses a lexical field of entrapment with verbs such as "strained," "stifled," "choke," and "stuffed" to show the physical discomfort the children feel because of their captivity indoors all day. The contrast with the lexical field of freedom conjured by the words "burst," "light," "sun," and "air" crafts the external conflict as a powerful force.  This is emphasized by the simile "they burst out like seeds from a crackling, over-ripe pod into the veranda…."  The onomatopoeic word "crackling" reminds the reader of seeds being cooped up so long that a minor explosion occurs on their release! This is amusing for the reader, but we feel pathos or sympathy for the children as well.

We witness internal conflict in Ravi when he dares to hide in the shed because he is terrified of it; he thinks that it is "seething with…unspeakable and alarming animal life." However, he conquers his internal fear and allows himself to shiver "with delight, with self-congratulation."  We can also see the shed as presenting external conflict to our protagonist, Ravi, as it is dark and infested with insects, but we realize that most of the conflict in this young boy is in his mind, because he imagines such "spooky" horrors as "graves," "snakes," "rats," "spider webs," and other "creatures…watching him." This conflict has universal appeal, for we have all been frightened of such things as children; thus we feel empathy for Ravi.

mrs-campbell eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A lot of the external conflict arises from the situations that the characters find themselves in, and from the main bully of the story, Raghu.  At the beginning of the story, the children are bored and clamoring for something to do, so the parents let them outside.  At this point, we are introduced to some of Raghu's "techniques".  He chases one kid "with such a bloodcurdling yell" that the victim starts crying.  Raghu is then seen "superciliously kicking him with his toe" and finding great "satisfaction" in it.  He walks around "whistling spiritedly so that the hiders should hear and tremble."  So, a lot of conflict comes from Raghu's bully status:  who wants to be found by him?  Fear is inspired in all of the children, which prompts further hiding and furtiveness on the part of Ravi.

The other external conflicts come when Ravi needs to find a place.  He realizes that next to the garage isn't good enough, so goes into it, overcoming his fear of bugs to do so.  Then, at the end, when he realizes that he was late, the time factor becomes a conflict because it forces him to realize that the children didn't care about him.

Internally, the conflict arises from Ravi's desire for recognition and triumph. He wants to be rewarded and seen as neat and cool amongst his friends.  He wants to win.  And, because of his daydreaming in regards to this internal desire of his, he stays too long, and loses his chance.  The major internal conflict, stemming from that desire, comes when he realizes that actually, the opposite is true.  He realizes, with devastating force, "the ignominy of being forgotten," and by the "terrible sense of his insignificance."  He is conflicted--he wants recognition, and realizes that he isn't going to get it.  He's just another person, to be forgotten as time moves on.

I hope that those thoughts helped a bit; good luck!