Games at Twilight

by Anita Desai

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What is the theme of childhood in Anita Desai's "Games at Twilight"?

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In "Games at Twilight" Anita Desai has the ability to portray childhood in all of its excitement and exhilaration, innocence, vulnerability, and even heartached.  The theme of childhood is one that encompasses all of those attributes, and is shown through the children themselves as they play a common and well-known game of hide 'n' go seek.  Childhood is exciting--you can sense the children's excitement as they are freed from the confines of the hot house and let out into the air to play.  Desai writes,

"they burst out like seeds from a crackling, overripe pod into the veranda, with such wild, maniacal yells,"

excited to be outside and free to play.  Excitement and exhilaration is also seen in Ravi as he finds an excellent spot to hide, and imagines his victory; he "shook, then shivered with delight, with self-congratulation" at his spot, and that the bully Raghu didn't find him.  Childhood is filled with innocence and vulnerability also; note the poor child that gets caught by Raghu, who ends up in tears as Raghu kicks him.  Note Ravi's happy innocent daydreaming in the garage as he awaits his triumph.  And then at the end, we see that vulnerability as his hopes are crushed, and Desai also brings in the theme of childhood heartbreak as Ravi learns a valuable grown-up lesson about his own significance:

"The ignominy of being forgotten—how could he face it? 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."

Childhood is filled with exhilarating moments of joy and glee, moments of vulnerability and innocence, and heartbreaking moments of difficult lessons learned, and Desai reflects all of these in her story "Games at Twilight."  I hope those thoughts helped; good luck!

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