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 pursued by Raghu, he painfully realizes that his short legs are no match for Raghu’s “long, hefty, footballer legs.” It is with this frame of mind that he crawls into the shed.
Ravi’s retreat into the dark shed is symbolic of his entry into the dark recesses of his unconscious self. As he ventures into this unknown territory, he is surprised at his own audacity. Released from the oppressive fear of being captured by Raghu, he begins to indulge in a fantasy of self-victory, power, and recognition. He clings to his fantasy so long that he overlooks the ultimate requirement for victory.
The clash between fantasy and reality is dramatized at the end of the story. Ravi’s ironic correction of his unpleasant situation results in his...
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