Games at Twilight

by Anita Desai

Start Free Trial

Will Ravi's "sense of insignificance" at the end of "Games at Twilight" remain strong?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The short story "Games at Twilight" by Anita Desai tells of a group of Indian children who pester their mother to let them play outside despite the lingering late afternoon heat. She finally relents, and they begin a game of hide and seek. An older, stronger boy named...

This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Raghu becomes "it" and has to search for the other children. A smaller, younger boy named Ravi overcomes his fear of the darkness and pests such as rats, spiders, and ants, and slips into a storage shed to hide. While he waits alone in the dusty darkness, he imagines himself a hero for besting Raghu and winning the game.

Ravi remains in the shed until twilight. He comes out and runs to the safe spot on the veranda, only to find that the children have long ago abandoned the hide and seek game and have gone on to do other things without him. In fact, they have forgotten about him completely. His daydreams about heroically winning the game have come to nothing. In his chagrin he refuses to play with the children. Desai writes that he lies down on the grass and is "silenced by a terrible sense of his insignificance."

Desai's intention in this story is not to dramatize a trauma that will haunt Ravi for the rest of his life. Instead, she is pointing out a significant aspect of the human condition in childhood. In fact, the lessons in this story even pertain to adults. The children commence the game with great enthusiasm, and Ravi imagines that he has come up with a solution that will allow him to win the game and receive the adulation of his peers. His plan doesn't work, and as a result he feels disappointed and insignificant. If he is like most children, he will likely recover quickly from this trauma and be back playing with the children the next day or perhaps even later that evening. A clue to his ability to recover is in the courage he shows in overcoming his fears and hiding in the dark storage shed. If he has the courage to do this, he will almost certainly have the strength to recover from his disappointment.

As previously mentioned, this story works as a parable for people of all ages. Disappointments, discouragements, and feelings of insignificance happen often in life. It is important to be resilient when confronted with adversity.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The narrator of Anita Desai’s story suggests that Ravi is aware of his “sense of insignificance” in relationship to his peers. It seems that he has internalized his aversion to the bully, Raghu, as cowardice for fearing him. However, Ravi’s behavior in a difficult situation led him to the small, but adequate sanctuary of the shed. He was correct in assessing his position as being in danger of Raghu’s physically attacking him. Ravi is shown as having the serious ambition of winning a game but also a realistic attitude toward the respective roles of meek and aggressive people.

Ravi’s introspective insights, along with the title, suggest that he has gained a more nuanced understanding of what it means to win a game. “Twilight,” in this regard, can mean the fading away of old ideas and attitudes, as in the twilight of his childhood. Just as this time of day lingers, Ravi’s transition into adolescence will be gradual rather than abrupt. Developing his own ideas of sportsmanship, including when how to evaluate when it is worth entering into any given competition, will take time: some battles are not winnable. The narrator suggests that he has taken important initial steps along that path.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

There is not a single, correct answer to this question. It is asking for a reader's opinion about a character's unwritten future, so feel free to answer either way and support with details that you know about the character. Personally, I would like to think that Ravi will not always have a sense of insignificance about him. Kids are often quite resilient and have a tendency to bounce back from emotional trauma quite quickly. That is the hopeful thought of mine. In reality, I think Ravi's sense of insignificance will continue and is likely to grow. I think the result of the game was a turning point in Ravi's attitude about himself. The game represented hope for Ravi. He had a great hiding spot, and he truly believed that he was capable of victory in the game. Ravi envisioned that his victory was going to earn him all kinds of praise and rewards, and he deeply desires those things because he hasn't been getting them by this point in his life. The other kids look at him like he is small and insignificant, and that is why he needs to earn the victory. Ravi does earn the victory, but nobody believes him. I think that moment is confirmation to Ravi that everybody will always think of him as insignificant; therefore, his low self-esteem and sense of insignificance will continue to grow throughout his life. Ravi will cease to try and his actions will become self fulfilling prophecies.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Children are amazingly resilient, and tend to bounce back from situations pretty quickly.  Anita Desai did a good job of capturing the despair that Ravi felt; such dramatic tragedy felt by the small child captures the intensity of those childhood emotions where it feels like the entire world is crumbling around you.  Even though that moment that Ravi felt left out, and "crushed" by his own "sense of insignificance" was truly horrible for him, I believe that he will recover. As soon as one of the other children notices him, and says hello, or asks him to join in, he will be over it.  However, your question asks if that lesson, that he isn't as important as he thought he was, will remain strong.  I don't know if that lesson will remain strong , but I definitely think that he will remember it.  How else do we grow up, but through life teaching us valuable lessons about ourselves and our place in the world?  This lesson is one that Ravi will keep in the back of his mind, and add it to his overall knowledge about himself, which will in turn aid in his maturity.  Slowly, children lose their naivety and innocence, through experiences just like this one.  So, even though it might not "remain strong" with him, it will stay with him, and add to the other experiences that will eventually turn him from a child into an adult.

I hope that those thoughts help to you get you thinking.  Good luck!

Approved by eNotes Editorial