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The aim of this paper is to explore the psychology of children’s world from Anita Desai’s “Games at Twilight” (1978), Rabindranath Tagore’s “Chuti” (1892-93) and William Golding’s Lords of the Flies (1954). This study is qualitative in nature and the data sources are secondary based like books, journal articles and websites. “Games at Twilight” portrays the psychology of a child as well as defeat and despair of man in the face of worldly justice, disillusion, pride, self-esteem, self-importance and innocence.
On the other hand “Chuti” depicts the mental state of a boy who left the world for good for mental torture. The lord of the Flies represents the internal conflict between good and evil through a group of boys. This study will also shed light on children’s mentality and peep into the heart of children with a view to exploring what goes on there. Finally this paper will explore the inner agony of Ravi, Phatik and Jack from Desai’s “Games at Twilight”, Tagore’s “Chuti” and Golding’s Lord of the Flies.
Key words: Psychological issues Despair, mental torture, frustration
Anita Desai is an Indian novelist, short story writer and children’s writer. She has created a new trend of literary tradition of Indian writing in English which is completely different from others. “Games at Twilight” is an unusual story known for its severe sharp wit and unsentimental humor through which the childhood world is explored. Through the story, Desai wanted to discover the joy and sorrow that comes in childhood life through the character of Ravi.
Similarly in “Chuti” Tagore has gone through the mind of Phatik and depicted the mental torture of Phatik very carefully. On the other hand Lord of the Flies represents the conflict between civilization and savagery through a group of English boys after plane crush in a remote island.
Anita Desai‘s short stories reflect her deep sense of diversity and multicultural sensibilities. Her writings are the mirrors of human emotions and feelings which reflect her understandings of temporary life style of the cities of India and the world. As Desai is a modern writer, most of her writing contains ‘Modern Sensibility'(Ram,1977,p.96). However, she has explored the psychology of children’s mind through the story “Games at Twilight”.
The background and the setting of the story are completely Indian. Actually the authoress has depicted the psychological aspects of children through the story “Games at Twilight”. Ravi, around whom the story revolves, is the main character in “Games at Twilight”. Through the character of Ravi, Desai will reveal the mental state of a child. In fact, Desai has used Ravi’s mind as the symbol of all children’s mind in the world. It is told that understanding of children’s mind is very difficult because their mind is strange and uncertain. As Anita Desai has a broad understanding heart that’s why she is able to go through the mind of children and discovers the secret of their mind which is not known to us. Ravi is young boy who takes part actively in the game “Hide and Seek” and engages himself completely. In the game, every child wants to be winner at any cost but he/she does not want to be defeated. For having victory, children are ready to suffer any types of suffering. Ravi who takes the risk of entering into the dark shed for getting victory in the game. He thought himself as a champion although in the dark shed he scars a lot of things. Victory is the only goal for Ravi and he is well prepared to achieve it at any cost. He is so determined that nothing can prevent him from the mission of having victory because it is a great chance to defeat Raghu and very soon he is going to have the taste of success. The authoress records Ravi’s feelings in the following words:
“Ravi sat back on the harsh edge of the tub, deciding to hold out a bit longer. What fun if they were all found and caught—he alone left unconquered! He had never known that sensation. Nothing more wonderful had ever happened to him than being taken out by an uncle and bought a whole slab of chocolate all to himself, or being flung into the soda man’s pony cart and driven up to the gate by the friendly driver with the red beard and pointed ears. 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.”(Sinha and Sarder, 2015, P. 9)
It is a common trend for children to forget anything. As children can forget anything at any time, they also can change their mental state for anything. In fact, they do not want to keep their mind in a fixed topic. When Ravi came out from the shed thinking himself as a champion the children were looking towards him like wild animal because they forget him. The children engaged themselves with new types of game forgetting Ravi. He claims victory but the children do not give any recognition. He becomes so overwhelmed for not having recognition as the winner of the game. His dream and aspiration turn into a nightmare. He discovered that he was insulted rather than due recognition. The experience of forgetting is very painful for Ravi. He bursts into tear and claims his victory:
“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.” (Sinha and Sarder, 2015, p.10)
The inner feelings of children cannot be read very easily. If anyone wants to read it, s /he needs to keep himself/herself under a close observation of children. As children could not understand the internal feelings of Ravi that’s why they started another game forgetting him it was one type of ignominy and humiliation for him. He had aspired victory and triumph but instead of it he was greeted with severe humiliation. The excruciating and agonizing pangs arising out of the frustration of not being recognized as the winner and more painfully of being forgotten by others left him stunned it turned him incapable of joining the next game of funeral. Ravi’s inner feelings come into light by writer like this:
“And the arc of thin arms trembled in the twilight, and the heads were bowed so sadly, and their feet tramped to that melancholy refrain so mournfully, so helplessly, that Ravi could not bear it. He would not follow them he would not be included in the 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.”(Sinha and Sarder, 2015, p.13). The children did not take the game “Hide and Seek” seriously as Ravi took and it was just a way to pass time to them. What goes on in the heart of Ravi can be realized through the game “Hide and Seek”.
However, Desai depicts the mental agony of Ravi through the games “Hide and Seek”. Although Ravi became winner in the game but he is not given proper recognition. For not having due respect, frustration and humiliation may come in the mind of children. This incident also hurts the self esteem of children “Self-esteem is somewhat epi-phenomenal—if good things happen, self-esteem is high if not, self-esteem is low”. (Baumeister et al., 2003 Seligman,1993).So self esteem is necessary for a child to live in the society with due respect. If self respect is not given to the children, their mental state is severely broken.
Tagore’s children based short stories have focused on children’s loneliness and mental agony. His child stories narrate about the unhappy life of children who desire to have love and affection at the adolescent period. Tagore’s child characters are mostly introvert and uncivilized. They want to go against so-called society. In “Chuti,” we see Tagore has focused on children’s love, freedom, happiness and mental loneliness. Tagore has thought about the psychology of children very closely. The main theme of Tagore’s child stories is to urge for love and affection. He is not a negative thinker of children’s surface nature but a deep analyzer of their inner feelings.
‘Chuti’ discloses the insight of the mind of a fourteen-year old boy named Phatik who is the central character around whom the story is woven. Through the character of Phatik, the mental state of a child is depicted. Tagore has gone through the mind of phatik and depicted the psychological issues very carefully. Actually children want a have comfortable atmosphere to survive but they suffer from a lot of psychological problem if the atmosphere is not favorable to them. It is seen in the society that for mental torture many children in cities and villages lead a measureable life. They do not share their mental issues with anybody and nobody can understand their inner suffering that’s why they suffer from a lot of mental problem most of the time. Whenever the mental torture of Phatik was out of control, he left the world for good. ‘Chuti’ is a story of a simple boy who did not follow any bindings or discipline in the society where he lived as a result he was neglected in every step in his life. He did not get mercy and love from anybody as K.R.S. Iyengar commented on Phatik’s fate like this:
“The one hunger that none can suppress not even the deaf and dumb, not even a backward child is the hunger for understanding and sympathy and love” (Indian writing in English, 1985, P. 69).
Normally every child wants to have mercy and sympathy from his/her surroundings. For the lack of sympathy a child cannot lead a simple and easy life. Phatik was a tragic boy who did not get sympathy from his mother, younger brother and aunt. There were many reasons for not having any sympathy because his age of that time was 13 or 14.In the age of 13 or 14 every boy is restless, they do not want to follow any as usual rules of the society. They want to follow their own way and nobody can understand their motives. In this stage children make their own world and they do not care anybody. The people of society cannot take them easily. Actually they cannot read their mind that is why children are in helpless condition of that period. As Tagore observes
“In this world of human affairs, there is no worse nuisance than a boy at the age of 14.He is neither ornamental nor useful” (Chuti)
Every human being needs enough time to adopt in any environment. Someone can survive and someone cannot survive in a new atmosphere. If anyone is not able to adjust in any atmosphere, his /her suffering is beggar description of that time. As a young boy, Phatik came in the environment of town from village, so everything to him was totally new. He joined in the family of his aunt in Kolkata but she could not take him easily and thought he was an extra burden as she got three children. So Phatik could not get any support but insult from his aunt. He was always in a mental pressure in his aunt’s house. In Kolkata, His soul was full of agony, as he realized that he was just a refugee not anything else. His aunt insulted him on every often for,
“It is easy to excuse the shortcomings of early childhood, but it is hard to tolerate even unavoidable lapses in a boy of fourteen. The lad himself becomes painfully self-conscious” (Tagore, Chuti)
Actually children become fan to them who are kind to them. Phatik wanted to have love and recognition from his surrounding at the time of living Kolkata but he did not get it. Thackeray said that nobody feels injustice or shrinks before a slight hurt and “has a sense of wrong so acute and so glowing a gratitude for kindness, as a generous boy” (The new Dictionary of Thoughts, 1971, P. 86). Phatik thought that his own house was the only heaven to him. Living in a new house with some strange people was one type of torture for him. Staying some days in the home Phatik understood that he was an unwelcoming guest. When Phatik was not able to tolerate his aunt’s cruelty, he desired to back to the lap of his mother and native village (Chelliah,2017)Phatik’s heart wanted to have love and he desired to return to the open field. Tagore realized Phatik’s expression in the following lines:
“The cramped atmosphere of neglect oppressed phatik so much that he felt that he could hardly breathe. He wanted to go out into the open country and fill his lungs with fresh air. But there was no open country to go. Surrounded on all sides by Calcutta houses and walls, he would dream night after night of his village home and long to be back there. He remembered the glorious meadow where he used to fly his kite all day long the broad river bank where he would wander about live long day singing and shouting for joy the narrow brook where he would go and dive and swim at any time he liked. He thought of his band of boy companion over whom he was despot and above all, the memory of that tyrant mother of his, who had such a prejudice against him”. (Tagore, Chuti)
It is seen that children are very much determined if they set up their mind for once it is very difficult for them to change. As Phatik could not adopt himself with the atmosphere of Kolkata, so he wanted to back to his mother and village. In Kolkata, he was living just a fish without water. He could not cope up with materialistic society of Kolkata. It was his desire of him to go to village at the time of holidays. He very often would ask his uncle when his holiday would come. Thinking his mother and village his physical condition became very critical. Whenever phatik’s mother heard the sick news of Phatik, she came to Kolkata like a rocket and began to repent for her son. Phatik’s excited behaviors paused as he moved his head and without noticing anybody said,
“Mother the holidays have come.” (Tagore, Chuti,)
A trivial event can make a bitter sentiment in children’s life. As Phatik was very young that’s why he could not tolerate any maltreatment. Telling lie of Makhan, the savagery of his mother, the barbarism of his aunt everything leads him in the world of anguish. Phatik yearned for affection and love. It is totally exceptional how Tagore has examined the responsiveness of the boy’s mind. (Chelliah,2017) Thus, ‘Chuti’ makes a permanent sign on the reader’s mind. Tagore’s realization of the thoughts and feelings of a boy of fourteen-year-old is worth denoting. Lila Ray Commented:
“Rabindranath discovered and lost his mother on the threshold of adolescence, between the ages of thirteen and fourteen. All this long repressed and neglected need of live and affection, a need intensified by the first stirrings of an interest in women as woman rose to the surface only to be thwarted. The emotional ferment into which he was plunged made him exceedingly restless” (Formative Influences in the life of Tagore, 1969, P. 32)
Through Phatik, Tagore wanted to give a message that environment plays an important role to grow up a child if the environment is not suitable that time it can create a lot of difficulties for children. If children get any mental pressure like adult it becomes very hard for them to bear. The beautiful world turns into hell if children cannot get proper support from their surroundings. Many children are dropping in the society for neglecting and mental torture like Phatik.
William Golding through his novel Lord of the Flies, he has portrayed realistic picture and universality exploring dark side of human being. Lord of the Flies denoted the dark side of human behavior through a group of small boys who kept themselves aloof from society and went against one another in the face of an imagined foe. Through the novel, Golding mainly examined children’s inner conflict between good and evil.
The minds of children are unpredictable and difficult to read. If children divert their mind, it is quite difficult for them to bring into a normal track. If any plans set into the mind of children, they try to do that at any cost. Through the character of Jack from the novel Lord of the Flies, we can be able to understand the strange nature of mind through his activities. Golding has brought out the secret of Jack as he has gone through the depth of the mind of children. Before election, all the boys in the island were combined in the same principle they wanted to construct a good civilization. “So the boys try to construct a civilization on the island but it breaks down in blood and terror because the boys are suffering from the terrible disease of being human.” (Tiger, 1974, p. 85) Being frustrated in the election, Jack’s mind set up was totally changed and engaged him in hunting. Frustration is a basic emotion of human being which may make soft mind into a savage one and destroy all good things. (Taylor, Zoe E., et al, 2014). Being frustrated, the first hunting experience of Jack was quoted by author like this: “There’s nothing in it of course. Just a feeling. But you can feel as if you’re not hunting but being hunted as if something’s behind you all the time in the jungle.” (Lall, 2007, p.160)
From frustration, ego can come into the mind of children if it comes, they only think about themselves and care about their own demand and desire. Egocentric children have a tendency to be self-centered, self-serving and self-focused. They can go astray because of ego and it is reflected in the character of Jack. As Jack was the choir leader, he was over sure that he would win in the election but his dream nip in the bud. Being desperate, children cannot do anything normally. Because of frustration, Jack sets up his mind firmly to do something different. He could not take his defeat easily and his frustration was the turning point for jack to be wild in nature. Through his bad activities, Jack established himself as leader of his team. As a team leader, the first ferocious mission of his life started killing successfully an innocent pig. “His mental state in the aftermath of killing his first pig, another important event in the boy’s decline into savage behaviors”(Babb,1970,p.17) It is a common nature of children to give leadership and they do not want to lose his leadership that’s why they need to do something different from others. So Jack creates fear in the mind of the children through his cruel activities.
Normally children fear whimsical and devil type man because they can do any unexpected harm to them. In the novel, Jack’s personality can be compared with Hitler or Stalin because they were very cruel. Allport believes. ‘Personality is the dynamic organization within the individual of those psychophysical systems that determine his characteristics behavior and thought’ (Personality, 1937, p.28).All the boys in the island were much afraid of jack cause at any time he could do any unpredictable harm to them. He made a terrific environment among the boys killing pigs. Jack had an evil spirit inside of his mind and he could be called as a dark passenger of his own life. No boys would go against his will because he used different tricks to control the boys. Jack was such a boy who wants to fulfill his desire at any cost. Jack’s activities can be comparable to the character of Kurtz Joseph Conrad describes Kurtz in the novel Heart of Darkness like this:
‘ .. But his soul was mad. Being alone in the wilderness, it had looked within itself and, by Heavens I tell you, it had gone mad . . . No eloquence could have been so withering to one’s belief in mankind as his final burst of sincerity. He struggled with himself too. I saw it. I heard it. I saw the inconceivable mystery of a soul that knew no restraint, no faith and no fear, yet struggling blindly with itself.’ (Conrad, 2008, p.95-96)
It is seen that children are very much allured by temptation because of early period they are not able to apply their sense properly. It is thought that temptation is the cause of all corruption in the world. Because of temptation Adam and Eve were out from the Garden of Eden. Jack is compared to a Satan in the Garden of Eden because he was successful to tempt most of the boys in the island providing them pig’s meat. He makes such strong types of followers who are ready to full fill Jacks desire for power at any cost. Using his teammates, he does most of the corruption. There is nobody to give hindrance of his activities if anybody dares to make problem for the next time he has to suffer a lot. Really he thinks himself as the king of the maroon island. He portrays himself as a god like figure in the mountain to make frighten of the boys. “Fancy thinking the beast was something you could hunt and kill” said the lord of the flies (William Golding, 1986, p.177). The beast is within all human being and it radiates as the form of fear that Jack creates.
If anyone is out of discipline or order, s/he will bring chaos and disorder in the society. In the life of children discipline plays an important role. If children are out of discipline, it is very difficult to bring them in a normal condition. Being desperate, Jack allows his evil instincts and he becomes a monster following savage law. Through Jack’s activities, Golding discovers the loss of innocence and the darkness of man’s heart. Jack’s activities are related to the biblical story of original sin and the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden after their loss of innocence. Many unexpected incident were happened by Jack because of his frustration. Frustration is largely responsible for his savagery and aggression. Dollard et al. stated that “1) all acts of aggression are the result of previous frustration, and 2) all frustration leads to aggression. Frustration was defined as the act of blocking someone from gaining an expected gratification aggression was defined as any behavior which is intended to injure the individual to whom it is directed.” (Frustration and aggression, 1939) So it is clear that Jack changed himself because of frustration.
The above mentioned stories deal with a universal theme of children’s psychology and their frustration, mental torture and despair. Actually children want to do everything by themselves according to their own way and it is found that children want to fulfill their desire at adolescent period at any cost if they cannot fulfill their desire, it can create a long lasting negative impact on children’s mind.
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