Games at Twilight by Anita Desai
In Games at Twilight by Anita Desai we have the theme of childhood, disillusion, rivalry, pride, self-esteem, self-importance and innocence. Narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator the reader realises after reading the story that Desai may be exploring the theme of childhood and the joy and sorrow that comes with childhood. All the children in the story wish to leave the house and play outdoors. They are excited that it is summer and often summer would be associated with a time for children to play. Even though there is some argument at the beginning of the story as who who will be ‘it’ the game of hide and seek progresses nonetheless. With Ravi finding himself hiding in the shed and believing that he will win the game. There is a sense of victory within Ravi which brings him joy. It will be the first time that he has won any of the games that the children have played and he feels proud that he might have the opportunity to finally beat the older children. However things do not work out as Ravi would like. Which is often the case when it comes to children playing games. Though Ravi wins. All the other children had forgotten about him and moved onto a different game. This may be important as there is a sense at least for Ravi that his victory is considered firstly insignificant by the other children and secondly Ravi himself does not delight in his victory. Where once Ravi had felt proud that he had beaten the others. This is no longer the case.
Desai also appears to be exploring the theme of rivalry. Ravi as mentioned wants to win the game and beat the other children. This is his main goal. To win the game. Ravi takes the game so serious that he is willing to overcome the fear he feels while he is in the shed. He is showing a toughness or resilience that he may not have shown before. For such a young boy he is also determined that he will win the game and again through his determination he is again overcoming his fear of what might be in the shed. Due to being one of the younger children it may also be a case that Ravi lacks self-esteem. That may be one of the reasons that winning the game of hide and seek is important to Ravi. It will make him not only feel better within himself but it will boost his confidence. Being able to beat the older children.
Though Ravi is only a child and doesn’t understand the mechanisms of life there is also a sense that Ravi will feel as though he is more important than the other children should he win the game. For Ravi the game of hide and seek is not really a game. It is a statement of importance. Ravi’s own importance when it comes to others. Ravi if anything knows that by winning the game he can consider himself to be better than the other children. The game is his world. Though only a fleeting moment the game means a lot more to Ravi then it does to the other children. In childhood there is a pecking order and by winning the game Ravi believes he will be at the top of that pecking order. In simple terms he will be better than everyone else because he was not caught by Raghu. For Ravi the most important thing in his life is to win the game. He sees nothing else as being significant. Which in many ways highlights Ravi’s innocence.
Desai also uses foreshadowing and irony in the story. When the children start playing on the veranda Desai describes things as being ‘dead’ (‘the birds still drooped, like dead fruit’ and ‘the outdoor dog lay stretched as if dead on the veranda mat.’)This may be important because at the end of the story Ravi feels as though his life has ended. Something that is noticeable by Ravi lying on the ground in silence. Which may mirror a dead person. The irony in the story is that the final game that the children play is about death. Yet no one can see that Ravi is dying inside. What should have been a sweet victory has been snatched from him. The importance that Ravi had placed on the game of hide and seek is not matched by the importance the other children gave the game. Whereas Ravi should be delighting in the fact that he won the game he is motionless and silent on the ground. Rather than moving up the pecking order that is so much a part of a child’s life. Ravi remains paralysed. The only person who has taken the game of hide and seek serious is Ravi and rather than feeling joy he feels nothing but sorrow. Though he has won the game he is beaten because the other children do not place the same importance on the game as Ravi does. Ravi is stuck in a moment which might suggest that he is paralyzed. Not wanting to play any more games with the other children. If anything Ravi has become disillusioned.