Games at Twilight

by Anita Desai

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What is the irony in "Games at Twilight"?

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This is an excellent story! Central to this tale is the irony of the main protagonist, Ravi, experiences at the end of the story. Let us just remind ourselves of the main events of the tale. It is a hot afternoon in India and several children decide to play hide-and-seek. Raghu is named as "it," the person who has to find everyone else. A boy named Ravi finds an excellent hiding place in a dark, spooky shed filled with discarded household goods. Ravi waits in the shed for a long time, thinking about how great it will be to win the game. At twilight, he finally comes out, expecting to be praised for his ingenuity, but he finds out that actually the others have forgotten him and the game and moved on to other games. Ravi is completely devastated and withdraws, overwhelmed by his own significance.

Thus there are a series of passages that are highly ironic when Ravi contemplates his victory and thinks about what it would be like to win the game:

There he sat smiling, knocking his heels against the bathtub, now and then getting up and going to the door to put his ear to the broad crack and listening for sounds of the game, the pursuer and the pursued, and then returning to his seat with the dogged determination of the the true winner, a breaker of records, a champion.

Note the irony here. Ravi is busy imagining himself in the role of "a true winner, a breaker of records, a champion" and anticipating the praise that he will receive. Actually, he has been forgotten.

The central irony though lies in the last paragraph of the story. After coming out and finding out that he had been forgotten, Ravi withdraws from his peers:

He would not follow them, he would not be included in this funeral game. He had wanted victory and triumph--not a funeral. But he had been forgotten, left out, and he would not join them now. 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.

Ravi, who wants so much to win, technically has achieved his desire. However, it was abandoned long ago before he emerged. Instead of receiving praise, he is ignored. He refuses to join in the "funeral" game the other children are now playing, but ironically, experiences his own kind of death--the death of his hopes and innocence.

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