Games at Twilight by Anita Desai

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Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Desai is a consummate artist known for her distinctive style and rich, sensuous imagery. Her diction is highly formalized and sophisticated. In her own account, though writing comes to her naturally, she works consciously, laboriously, and meticulously to impose a design on the chaotic raw material of life. She regards writing as a process of discovering the truth, which is, for the most part, hidden beneath the surfaces of what people see, say, and do. Because her professed interest in fiction has always been a psychological exploration of the human mind, she does not give much importance to the plot. Instead, she reveals the interior landscapes of her characters’ minds.

In “Games at Twilight,” Desai provides a psychological exploration of the protagonist’s mind by delving into his childhood fears, emotions, perceptions, desires, and thought processes. Her narrative strategy of shifting the omniscient point of view to the limited third-person vantage allows the reader to gain leisurely insights into the inner workings of Ravi’s mind.

A distinctive aspect of Desai’s style is her use of graphic description and vivid imagery. The story contains a number of memorable descriptions. The opening paragraph describes the oppressive and suffocating environment in the house. The second and the third paragraphs dramatize the impact of searing heat outside by painting a verbal picture of listless life in the garden through a series of visual images and vivid similes. Her microscopic description of the dark shed is meticulous in concrete details. Finally, her evocative and poetic description of twilight is characterized by soft and sensuous imagery appealing to all the bodily senses.

The setting of the story is not only descriptive but also evocative and symbolic. Desai uses many details of the setting to evoke an atmosphere of intense and oppressive heat, which serves as a symbolic background to rising human conflict. The setting also forms an integral part of the action. The garden, the shed, the veranda, and the lawn, all play an important part in shaping the action of the story.