Games at Twilight

by Anita Desai

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What bitter lesson does Ravi learn at the end of the story "Games at Twilight"?

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As Ravi hides in the shed for many hours, he believes he will be the champion of the game and a “true winner, a breaker of records, a champion.” He uses this to steel himself against his fear while he is in the dark shed.

After Ravi runs across the yard to the porch to win the game, he feels “rage and pity” that he forgot the final criteria for winning the game. After Ravi chants “I won, I won, I won,” the other children slowly realize that he has been missing the whole time and that they did not notice it.

At the end of this story, Ravi realizes that nobody noticed or cared that he wasn’t found at the end of the game. Ravi’s true bitter lesson is that he was forgotten and that he doesn’t matter, as the final line in the story portrays him “silenced by a terrible sense of his insignificance.”

Ravi's childish crying at not winning a game have given way to a larger, more adult, sadness about his own unimportance. For this reason, he stops crying and simply lays silent, face down in the grass.

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Ravi learns a lesson in humility. He is so overwhelmed by the fact that he wins the game that he forgets to do the one thing to seal his victory—touch the den.

He could have slipped out long ago, dashed across the yard to the veranda, and touched the "den.'' It was necessary to do that to win. He had forgotten. He had only remembered the part of hiding and trying to elude the seeker.

He is utterly distraught at this realization, and when he does go out to claim his success, it is much too late! The children ceased playing hide-and-seek hours ago and have been partaking in some other activities since then. Ravi was forgotten during this time.

When the unfortunate lad goes to claim his victory, it is much too late. The game is not relevant or valid anymore. Ravi has, while gloating over his supposed success, wasted a golden opportunity to gain the other children's respect. What he gets instead is a scolding and an expression of concern from his annoyed mother:

Stop it, stop it, Ravi. Don’t be a baby. Have you hurt yourself?'

He also earns their derision:

"Don’t be a fool,'' Raghu said roughly, pushing him aside, and even Mira said, "Stop howling, Ravi. If you want to play, you can stand at the end of the line,'' and she put him there very firmly.

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Ravi learns that despite his victory over his peers and even older children at the hide-and-seek game, he still remains just as insignificant as he was before.

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.

Ravi is still...

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the little kid that shoves his finger up his nose when he's nervous, and the other kids still view him as a little baby. All of his efforts to become the contrary have failed, and he has earned no extra credibility over the course of the story. Ravi had huge visions of grandeur, and he believed that beating Raghu and winning the entire game would make him some kind of conquering hero; however, he remains just as small and unimportant as he ever was.

He hugged his knees together and smiled to himself almost shyly at the thought of so much victory, such laurels.

While he and the readers are exceptionally disappointed in this outcome, it is a more realistic end to this story.

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