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
Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 523
This title story in Anita Desai’s acclaimed collection Games at Twilight, and Other Stories (1978) deals with a universal theme of children at play and their fantasies and disillusionment. Desai begins the story objectively from the third-person vantage, but as the action progresses and the tension mounts, she skillfully shifts the narrative focus to the consciousness of the central character, Ravi. The story is remarkable for its insights into child psychology, powerful evocation of atmosphere, vivid imagery, and symbolic use of setting.
The story opens on a hot summer afternoon in an urban house in India. The children who have been kept indoors all day to escape the oppressive heat of the sun feel confined and suffocated, and when they are finally unleashed, they thrill with joy and excitement and decide to play a game of hide-and-seek.
Raghu, being the eldest, is chosen to be “it”—the seeker. All the other children run helter-skelter to find a suitable hiding place. Ravi hides behind the locked garage. When he hears his little brother crying because he has been caught by Raghu, he panics. As Raghu’s whistling and the thumping sound of his feet grow louder, in a moment of fright Ravi suddenly slips through a small gap into an abandoned shed next to the garage. From this moment on, the narrative filters through Ravi’s consciousness and the reader is brought into the deepest reaches of his psyche.
Though the shed is dark, damp, and spooky, littered with discarded pieces of junk and infested with moths and crawling insects, Ravi finds it a welcome haven. His initial fear of darkness disappears the moment he entertains the thought that no one can possibly find him there. Raghu whistles and whacks his stick in vain around the garage and then moves away. Ravi feels exultant at the thought of not being discovered. In his imagination, he begins to savor the new sensation of his victory over Raghu and the thought of being recognized as a champion in a group of older, bigger children.
He becomes so absorbed in his fantasy that he loses track of time. At twilight, as darkness engulfs the shed, he suddenly realizes that, according to the rules of the game, he has to clinch his victory by dashing to the veranda and touching the “den.” To rectify his mistake, he darts out of the shed and rushes toward the house to proclaim his victory. To his great anguish, however, he discovers that the game of hide-and-seek has long been over, that no one has even cared to remember that he was missing, and that now the children are engaged in another game, totally oblivious of his existence. With tears in his eyes, he cries out at the top of his voice to assert his existence and his victory, but no one pays attention to him.
In the last climactic scene, Ravi decides to withdraw from the children’s game completely, and in a quick flash of intuitive understanding, he accepts the reality of his situation. Hurt and humiliated, he suddenly becomes aware of his strong sense of alienation, powerlessness, and unimportance.