Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Because “Games at Twilight” deals primarily with children at play, its main theme is fantasy versus reality. This theme is symbolically reflected in the title, as the word “twilight” suggests an interplay of light and shadow, blurring the distinction between reality and fantasy. Dealing with a crucial stage in the psychological development of a self-conscious young boy, the story derives its strength from an imaginative application of two postulates of Sigmund Freud’s well-known theory that a child’s play is motivated by a single wish to be “big and grown up” and that every dream or fantasy is a wish-fulfillment, generated essentially by the desire to correct unsatisfying reality.

Ravi is clearly unsatisfied with the reality of his present circumstances. A sensitive and imaginative child, he feels acutely the inferiority of his status as reflected in the rude and aggressive behavior of his older siblings. On more than one occasion, they remind him that he is nothing but a baby. At the onset of the game, when he proposes that Raghu, being the eldest, become the seeker, a scuffle ensues between them, and Raghu tears his shirt sleeve. He is tired of being kicked and shoved around by his big brother. When he cannot reach the garage key hanging on the nail, he wishes he were big and tall, but he is helplessly aware of the reality that it will be years before he can reach that stage. Similarly, when he thinks of running around the garage if...

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