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The irony in Anita Desai's short story "Games at Twilight"

Irony is the incongruity between expectation achievements. In Anita Desai's "Games at Twilight" irony lurks at the very heart of the story. Ravi's painful acceptance of the reality is the bitterest of ironies. Throughout the story Ravi has dreamt of a victory he never tasted before, but in reality he is greeted with a failure he even never imagined in his wildest of dreams.
The theme that the story apparently deals with is quite simple. It is a short story about children's game of hide and seek. The children start playing hide and seek. In the game Ravi is hider and Raghu, the stout hoarse-voiced football champion is the seeker. When Ravi manages to dupe Raghu by slipping into a shape, he becomes so elated that he even congratulates his own self on the achievement. He becomes so obsessed with the thought of victory that it obliterates all other considerations from his mind. He even forgets the flow of time. When he finally comes out of the shade, his joy turns into sorrow as he, to his utter pain and astonishment, realises how insignificant he is to the others. He frantically claims his victory, but nobody recognises it. It surprised him greatly that he was totally forgotten by his other playmates.

The little boy's dreams and aspirations, in the course of the events, prove to be one of the bitterest ironies. His actions in the dark shed at the prospect of a great victory turn out to be ironical when viewed from the ultimate achievement of Ravi. One of the bitterest ironies of the story lurks in the following lines: "To defeat Raghu - that hirsute, hoarse-voiced football champion - and to be the winner in a circle of older, bigger, luckier children that would be thrilling beyond imagination. He hugged his knees together and smiled to himself almost shyly at the thought of so much victory, such laurels." The dream that he would be hailed as the "champion" in the game proves to be one of the painful ironies for the little boy, Ravi.

The following passage is also heavily ironical as it records the action of a boy obsessed with his possible success. "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 true winner, a breaker of records, a champion." The irony lies in the fact that he sat smiling in the dark shed as he anticipated his victory, but in reality he was greeted with humiliation and inexplicable embarrassment. The steadfast determination of a true winner ends up in frustration; the dream of becoming a champion turns out into a nightmarish experience. Instead of being hailed as the champion of the game, he received negligence and was deprived of the honour due to him.Irony also lies at the end of the story. In the second game the children chant a song, which is severely ironical. The song urges others to remember them even after death. 'The grass is green...

The rose is red; Remember me When I am dead, dead, dead, dead....'

But the irony of the situation is that Ravi, who is still alive, is forgotten as he went out of their sight only for the time being. The song thus presents a crude reality of the world. It only serves to heighten the frustration, agony and depression of Ravi. The ending thus brings into light the frustration of the little protagonist: "He would not follow them, he would not be included in this funereal 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."Irony dominates the whole story. The story deals with a child whose dream of becoming a champion in the game of hide and seek turns out to be a nightmare. By using some painful ironies the author explores the inner world of a child; a child's heart is dissected. The story categorically upholds how a child feels when he is deprived of his due recognition and honour. Anita Desai is unique in her treatment of child psychology.


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