Games at Twilight

by Anita Desai

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Games at Twilight Summary

In "Games at Twilight," Ravi and a group of older boys play hide and seek.

  • Ravi and his little brother join a group of older boys who want to play a variant of hide and seek. Raghu, the eldest, quickly finds Ravi's brother and several of the others.
  • Ravi originally hides in a garage, but then slips into a shed attached to it. Raghu whacks at the contents of the garage with a stick, but can't find Ravi.
  • At twilight, Ravi emerges, only to find that the other kids have moved on to a different game


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Last Updated on March 8, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 529

The story "Games at Twilight" by Anita Desai is a poignant exploration of the psychology of children at play. It appears in her acclaimed collection Games at Twilight, and Other Stories, published in 1978.

The story begins on a hot summer day in an urban house in India, where the children are cooped up indoors to escape the oppressive heat. When they are finally allowed to go outside, they decide to play hide-and-seek. The eldest child, Raghu, is chosen to be "it," while the others scatter to find hiding places.

The central character, Ravi, hides behind the locked garage. When he hears his little brother crying because he has been caught by Raghu, Ravi panics and slips through a small gap into an abandoned shed next to the garage.

Despite the shed being dark, damp, and spooky, littered with discarded junk and crawling with insects, Ravi finds it a welcome haven. He feels a sense of exultation at the thought of not being discovered by Raghu and imagines himself as the victor in the game. He becomes so absorbed in his fantasy that he loses track of time.

As darkness falls and twilight approaches, Ravi suddenly remembers that, according to the rules of the game, he must dash to the veranda and touch the "den" to clinch his victory. He rushes out of the shed, only to discover that the game of hide-and-seek has long been over, and the other children have moved on to another game. Ravi's victory is meaningless, as nobody even remembers he was missing. Hurt and humiliated, he realizes his strong sense of alienation, powerlessness, and unimportance.

"Games at Twilight" is remarkable for its insights into child psychology, vivid imagery, and symbolic use of setting. The story evokes a powerful sense of atmosphere, as the children feel confined and suffocated indoors and then experience a thrill of excitement and freedom when they are finally able to go outside. The abandoned shed, with its dark and spooky interior, becomes a symbol of Ravi's inner world, where he can retreat from the pressures of the outside world and indulge in his fantasies.

Desai also skillfully shifts the narrative focus from an objective third-person perspective to the subjective consciousness of Ravi, as he experiences a range of emotions, from fear and panic to exultation and then to hurt and humiliation. Through Ravi's perspective, the story explores the themes of disillusionment and the loss of innocence that are central to childhood.

In the end, Ravi withdraws from the children's game completely, accepting the reality of his situation. The story suggests that this experience of disappointment and rejection is a necessary part of growing up and that children must learn to navigate the complexities of social interactions and the unpredictable nature of the world around them. The story also highlights the importance of empathy and understanding, as the other children fail to recognize or acknowledge Ravi's feelings.

"Games at Twilight" is a beautifully written and insightful story that captures the essence of childhood and the universal themes of disappointment and disillusionment. Desai's skillful use of imagery and symbolism, combined with her insights into child psychology, make this story a timeless classic.

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