Games at Twilight

by Anita Desai

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Student Question

What is the tone in "Games at Twilight" by Anita Desai?

Quick answer:

The tone in the beginning of the story is desperate and serious, but when Ravi finds the shed it becomes triumphant. After he leaves the shed, the tone is one of humiliation and resignation.

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Tone is the author’s attitude toward a subject.  This short story is largely about childhood.  In the beginning of the story, the tone is both serious and desperate.  The children cannot wait to get out of the house.

[Everything] was still curtained and shuttered in a way that stifled the children, made them feel that their lungs were stuffed with cotton wool and their noses with dust and if they didn’t burst out into the light and see the sun and feel the air, they would choke.  (para 1)

When the children finally do get out of the house, the tone is fantastical delight, but still desperation.  They are thrilled to get to leave.

When Ravi is looking for a hiding place, the desperation heightens. When he finds the shed, the tone is triumphant. Inside the shed, the tone can best be described as analytical and reflective.

With a whimper he burst through the crack, fell on his knees, got up, and stumbled on stiff, benumbed legs across the shadowy yard, crying heartily by the time he reached the veranda so that when he flung himself at the white pillar and bawled, “Den! Den! Den!” his voice broke with rage and pity at the disgrace of it all, and he felt himself flooded with tears and misery. 

When Ravi leaves the shed, the tone is triumphant again, until he realizes that the game is over and everyone left him.  Then the tone is of humiliation, and finally resignation, as Ravi realizes that his fantasy has been crushed, leaving him alienated.

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What's an atmosphere of the story "Games at Twilight" by Anita Desai?

The story takes place in India, where a bunch of children are playing inside a house.  It is summertime, and the weather outside is so hot that everyone has crowded indoors to try to escape the heat; however, the kids get antsy and restless indoors.  They want to go outside and play, and are feeling cooped up and fidgety.

So, the physical location begins in a house, but soon the children are let outdoors and are giddy with the chance to play.  The atmosphere of the story is created mainly through the mood of the children.  At first, the atmosphere is defined by their stifled anxiety about being cooped in the house.  Desai writes that being indoors

"made them feel that their lungs were stuffed with cotton wool and their noses with dust and if they didn’t burst out into the light and see the sun and feel the air, they would choke."

So the story opens with this feeling of tense restlessness, of being oppressed and wanting to be elsewhere.  But then, as the children are let out, the atmosphere changes to one of ecstatic giddiness; they run free, screaming and jumping, and the mood is one of excitement and joy.  The total abandonment and freedom of childhood games is felt in the atmosphere.

Then, the atmosphere becomes one of chaos as the kids try to decide what to do, what to play, and who is to be "it" in their game of hide 'n' seek.  The, the tension increases again as they struggle to find good hiding places, and as Ravi perches in the garage, that tension increases until Raghu passes by.

Throughout the story, the atmosphere changes moods as quickly as the children change moods, which is often.  It reflects beautifully the transient and intense joys and miseries of childhood, chronicalling the moods of it well.  I hope that those thoughts help; good luck!

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