Envy and Guilt
The nameless Narrator in ‘‘End of the Game’’ is envious of Letitia and, at the same time feels terribly guilty for her envy. She envies Letitia’s special privileges: The Narrator also is envious when it becomes clear that Ariel prefers Letitia. This envy is complicated because the Narrator envies a disabled girl who is often in pain and who seems to be suffering. Thus she often feels guilty and tries to compensate by being extra nice to Letitia. In fact, the night the Narrator and Holanda discuss their resentment of Letitia, the Narrator has a dream that she says she has had before—she is on the train tracks and worries she cannot escape being hit by a train. This would place the Narrator in Letitia’s position—with a broken body—or would kill her. The dream is a manifestation of her guilty conscience because of her envy of Letitia.
Physical Disability as a Taboo Subject
Letitia’s physical disability is at the center of this story, although it is rarely discussed. Letitia herself never mentions it. Her disability is ignored in an effort to pretend that it does not exist. The Narrator observes: WhentheNarratorattemptstotalkwithLetitia about why she is not going to meet Ariel, she does not mention Letitia’s disability, concerned instead that she ‘‘put it nicely.’’ She tells Letitia, ‘‘If you want, we can explain to Ariel that you feel upset.’’ Letitia refuses to talk about it, as well. ‘‘She said no and shut up like a clam,’’ the Narrator relates.
Letitia’s physical disability is so taboo within her family that it seems plausible that she does not reveal it to Ariel in the letter, either, although the reader never knows for sure. However, facing the reality of the disability, even though it remains unspoken, is the catalyst that prompts the three adolescent girls to let go of their childhood game, and, in a sense, grow up.
Fantasy versus Reality
Fantasy is often an important part of childhood but in ‘‘End of the Game’’, fantasy takes on an even greater significance than usual. In this story, the girls’ fantasy world is the most important part of their existence. They must get through the realities of day-to-day life such as washing dishes, doing chores and dealing with Mama and Aunt Ruth, but their one goal is to go outside and escape into their game. That world is the most rewarding to them, perhaps because when Letitia poses, she is regal and beautiful— she did not appear disabled at all.
Fantasy also plays a large role in the romance between Letitia and Ariel. These two characters never meet, and yet they act as if they are in love in a way that is reminiscent of fairy tales. However, although Letitia most likely does not tell Ariel in her letter exactly why she is saying good-bye to him, the reality of Letitia’s physical disability and how it will limit her life— rather than give her special privileges—becomes clear to all three girls. Thereafter they give up their fantasy game.
Sara Constantakis – Short Stories for Students – Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, vol. 31, Julio Cortazar, Published by Gale Group, 2010