The Most Dangerous Game Richard Connell
About The Most Dangerous Game The short story “The Most Dangerous Game” was originally published in Collier’s Weekly on January 19, 1924. The story has also been published as “The Hounds of Zaroff.” The main premise of the tale has been adapted numerous times to film and radio. “The Most Dangerous Game” was published on the heels of World War I, and is informed by the author's experience in the war. The influence of the war can be seen in both the moral underpinnings and historical references in the text. For example, the book brings into question the morality of killing for sport as well as the presumption that there exists a stark divide between humans and animals. In addition, there are numerous historical references to the politics and culture of Eurasia. Zaroff and Ivan are described as Cossacks. The Cossacks constituted a group of highly militarized individuals that fought for centuries in the name of the Czar. They were known for their brutal, violent ways. Connell’s identification of Zaroff and Ivan as Cossacks helps bolster the feasibility of the plotline. After the fall of the Czar in 1917, the Cossacks became fiercely hunted by the Soviet regime. In fact, Zaroff cites this genocidal tragedy as the reason for his flee to Ship-Trap Island. Much like his Cossack compatriots in Russia, Zaroff finds the tables turned on him as Rainsford manages to ultimately hunt the hunter.
Richard Edward Connell was born on October 17, 1893 in Poughkeepsie, NY, to Richard Edward Connell Sr. and Marrie Miller Connell. His father worked as an editor and reporter for the local paper before beginning his political career. His father’s connections at the paper later proved useful for Connell, as by the age of 18 he secured a job as an editor. Connell later attended Georgetown and, after the death of his father, Harvard. He served in World War I, and during his service he wrote and edited the camp newspaper. Upon his return from the war, he married Louise Herrick Fox in 1919. Connell’s stories were published in both the Saturday Evening Post and Collier’s Weekly. He died in Beverly Hills, CA at the age of 56.
Connell’s stories won him much acclaim. He won the O. Henry Memorial Prize twice for his short stories “A Friend of Napoleon” and “The Most Dangerous Game.” He was also nominated for an Academy Award for best original story in 1942 for the film “Meet John Doe.” Some of his most notable works include: “Centenarian” (1916), “The Most Dangerous Game” (1924), “Heart of a Sloganeer” (1929), “Cross-Eyed South-Paw” (1929), “Black Chrysanthemums” (1927), “Brother Orchid” (1938), The Mad Lover (1927), Murder at Sea (1929), and Playboy (1936).
Character List Captain Nielsen The Swedish captain of the boat from which Rainsford falls. Along with his crew, he believes that Ship-Trap Island is a place of evil. General Zaroff A renowned hunter and Cossack refugee who turned to hunting men after being unsatisfied by the challenge posed by the fiercest of animals. Zaroff is a man of contradictions, both highly refined in manners and deeply uncivilized in morals. Ivan General Zaroff's mute assistant. Provides much of the muscle needed to maintain Zaroff's fantasy island by offering an alternative to the hunt: those chosen by Zaroff either participate in the hunt or face Ivan's burly, violent hands. Sanger Rainsford The protagonist of the story, Rainsford is a well-known, highly experienced big-game hunter who has the great misfortune of being recruited as prey by General Zaroff. He is able to maintain his intellectual composure during the most frightening of circumstances. He uses this to his advantage in an attempt to outsmart Zaroff. Whitney Rainsford's traveling companion who first cites the rumors of evil and cannibalism that surround Ship-Trap Island.
Quotes and Analysis • "The best sport in the world," agreed Rainsford. • "For the hunter," amended Whitney. "Not for the jaguar." • "Don't talk rot, Whitney," said Rainsford. • "You're a big game hunter, not a philosopher. Who cares how a jaguar feels?" • "Perhaps the jaguar does," observed Whitney. • "Bah! They have no understanding"
This early conversation between Whitney and Rainsford foreshadows the events to come. Rainsford will soon experience the position of the jaguar as he is hunted by Zaroff on Ship-Trap island. The brief exchange highlights Rainsford's outlook on the sport of hunting. He expresses a lack of empathy for the plight of the hunted. Over the course of his experiences, his disposition changes remarkably.
Quotes and Analysis The general filled both glasses, and said: "God makes some men poets. Some He makes kings, some beggars. Me He made a hunter. My hand was made for the trigger, my father said.... My whole life has been one prolonged hunt."
In this passage Zaroff reveals some of the ideological underpinnings that drive his desire to hunt. As is evidenced by the passage, he truly believes that he was made specifically for this single pastime. His passion and exuberance for the sport is all-consuming. Zaroff's identity is hinged on this sole quality, a fact that makes his hunting of men all the more believable. This passage is also indicative of his role as the antagonist of the story.
Quotes and Analysis "I wanted an ideal animal to hunt," explained the general. "So I said: 'What are the attributes of an ideal quarry?' And the answer was of course: 'It must have courage, cunning, and, above all, it must be able to reason.”
Zaroff's hunting of men is highly logical, as shown from the above passage. His sound thought process makes his desire to hunt Rainsford all the more terrifying. This passage is also somewhat of a moral statement as it demonstrates the way that humans, through higher cognitive function, can revert back to a more heathen state. It is a paradox that haunts the text.
"I have electricity. We try to be civilized here." "Civilized? And you shoot down men?" A trace of anger was in the general's black eyes, but it was there for but a second, and he said, in his most pleasant manner: "Dear me, what a righteous young man you are! I assure you I do not do the thing you suggest. That would be barbarous. I treat these visitors with every consideration. They get plenty of good food and exercise. they get into splendid physical condition. You shall see for yourself tomorrow."
This passage is filled with a great deal of irony. Zaroff presents the hunting of men as a purely civilized process for the prisoners. He implies a certain degree of fairness to the sport when in fact he is robbing his captives of their freedom and their dignity as men. They have no choice as toward whether or not they want to participate. This demonstrates Zaroff's twisted logic and his somewhat paradoxical definition of civilization.
The bed was good and the pajamas of the softest silk, and he was tired in every fiber of his being, but nevertheless Rainsford could not quiet his brain with the opiate of sleep. He lay, eyes wide open. Once he thought he heard stealthy steps in the corridor outside his room. He sought to throw open the door; it would not open. He went to the window and looked out. His room was high up in one of the towers. The lights of the chateau were out now, and it was dark and silent, but there was a fragment of sallow moon, and by its wan light he could see, dimly, the courtyard; there, weaving in and out in the pattern of shadow, were black, noiseless forms; the hounds heard him at the window and looked up, expectantly, with their green eyes.
Rainsford's observations on the first night of his stay at Ship-Trap island include numerous examples of metaphorical language. The contrast between soft, light, and civilized with dark wilderness continues throughout his stay on the island. It is only in the dark of night that Rainsford is able to see the true nature of the mansion. The fancy, polished exterior of the mansion is a facade for the barbarous activities that take place under the cover of night. Although the hunt has yet to begin, Rainsford is already trapped by the hunting dogs. Their eyes watch him as he surveys his surroundings, preventing him from making any attempt at an escape.
Quotes and Analysis "You'll find this game worth playing," the general said enthusiastically. "Your brain against mine. Your woodcraft against mine. Your strength and stamina against mine. Outdoor chess! And the stake is not without value, eh?“
Zaroff clearly envisions the match against Rainsford as one that is even. In reality, however, it is not. For one, Zaroff makes it evident that he is willing to hunt to the death. His passion for hunting is so profound that he sees nothing awry with putting everything he has into it. Rainsford, on the other hand, is an unwilling participant who is in many ways largely unprepared for the hunt. Although he is an accomplished big-game hunter, he has never had to play the role of prey, and he lacks Zaroff's familiarity with the island. That Zaroff finds the match an equal one only builds on Rainsford's understanding of his twisted psyche.
This short sentence provides an example of zoomorphism. Throughout the short story both Zaroff and Rainsford compare themselves to animals. Rainsford, through these comparisons, begins to see himself in the position of a prey animal. Such a connection helps him empathize with the plight of those he has hunted in the past. This represents a change in frame of mind from the very early parts of the story where he tells his friend Whitney that jaguars "have no understanding."
Rainsford did not want to believe what his reason told him was true, but the truth was as evident as the sun that had by now pushed through the morning mists. The general was playing with him! The general was saving him for another day's sport! The Cossack was the cat; he was the mouse. Then it was that Rainsford knew the full meaning of terror.
This passage marks the first time that Rainsford is truly terrified by his plight. The odds stacked against him finally manifest themselves as a response to Zaroff's mind games. In addition, this short inner monologue provides another example of zoomorphism. It also brings to light that the hunting of men is perhaps more cruel than the hunting of animals for the simple fact that humans are able to think rationally. The wave of human emotion resulting from this ability to reason is overwhelming for Rainsford.
The general made one of his deepest bows. "I see," he said. "Splendid! One of us is to furnish a repast for the hounds. The other will sleep in this very excellent bed. On guard, Rainsford."... He had never slept in a better bed, Rainsford decided.
These last few sentences of the story provide a somewhat cryptic ending. Implied in Rainsford's statement is his victory over Zaroff. Given that Zaroff's last words were indicative of a fight, one is led to believe that Rainsford has killed Zaroff and won his bed. In a more metaphorical sense, Rainsfords comment can be read as a literary sigh of relief. He is no longer subject to the terrifying hunt. The lack of a fully fleshed out ending allows the reader to speculate and imagine what could have happened.
Major Themes Hunters vs. the hunted The most obvious theme of "The Most Dangerous Game" is that which arises from the relationship of the hunter and the hunted. At the very beginning of story, Rainsford and Zaroff are presented as equals. Both characters are well-accomplished big-game hunters. As the story unfolds, however, their roles change. Rainsford is thrust into the position of the hunted. However, he tries to undermine the game by setting traps for the hunter. Rainsford's form of hunting is passive whereas Zaroff's is active. The fragility of this relationship between the hunted and the hunter is not only displayed in the resolution of the story but also through various passages. For example, Zaroff describes several interactions with animals that resulted in injury on his part.
Murder vs. hunting The central moral theme of the story involves the distinction between murder and hunting. Rainsford sees a clear difference between the two, hence his disgust at Zaroff's hunting of men. Zaroff, on the other hand, sees his pastime as similar to a war. This particular theme remains a source of tension throughout the story. As Rainsford is hunted, he does his best to try to destroy Zaroff through a series of traps. In the end, it is implied that Rainsford has proven to be the greater hunter. Rainsford's last line of the story indicates that he slept in Zaroff's bed. Such an action can be read as a metaphor for his unwilling conversion into a hunter of men.
Emphasis on color The darkness presented in the first scene of the story continues through the hunt and the eventual demise of Zaroff. In addition, there are many references to the color black. Ivan is described as having a long, black beard. Zaroff has black eyebrows and a black beard. The eyes of many of the characters are described as black pools. The thematic use of darkness and the color black adds to the suspenseful, dramatic timbre of the story.
War as a hunt The theme of war as a hunt resonates through the back story of "The Most Dangerous Game." Zaroff explicitly compares his game to warfare, as a form of justification. He also mentions the plight of the Cossacks, an ethnic group pushed out of Russia after the fall of the Czar. The manner in which they were hunted is similar to the way Zaroff hunts his current prey as the Cossacks were known as fierce warriors.
Questioning of accepted logic Zaroff has a rather demented way of viewing the world, one that Rainsford has a difficult time understanding. Zaroff points out numerous times that the hunting of men is not much unlike the hunting of wild animals. Moreover, men have long participated in socially sanctioned activities, such as wars, that result in the death of the opposing party. Zaroff's comparisons and the subsequent hunt constantly raise the question of the validity of any type of hunting or war.
The irony of humanity Zaroff is a man of contradictions. While being an extremely "civilized" man in the sense that he is knowledgeable about aspects of high culture, he also presents himself as barbaric. The entire island is a contradiction. The lavish house stands starkly against the dark jungle where the hunt occurs. In some ways, Zaroff can be seen as a stand-in for humanity. The same irony that Zaroff presents in "The Most Dangerous Game" is also present at the pinnacle of civilization today - highly advanced and educated civilizations still murdering each other over land and resources.
Inversion of roles Throughout the story there are a series of role inversions. For example, the hunter becomes the hunted twice. The first time, Rainsford is forced into the position of prey by Zaroff; the second, it is Rainsford that hunts Zaroff. The inversion of roles continues until the end of the story, at which point Rainsford metaphorically takes on the role of Zaroff by sleeping in his bed. Rainsford has ultimately been transformed by Zaroff's game.
To what extent does the author use descriptions of Zaroff's looks to define his character
"Rainsford's first impression was that the man was singularly handsome; his second was that there was an original, almost bizarre quality about the general's face. He was a tall man past middle age, for his hair was a vivid white; but his thick eyebrows and pointed military mustache were as black as the night from which Rainsford had come. His eyes, too, were black and very bright. He had high cheekbones, a sharpcut nose, a spare, dark face--the face of a man used to giving orders, the face of an aristocrat." Zaroff is a man of contradictions, both highly refined in manners and deeply uncivilized in morals. Rainsford notices that Zaroff is a man of distinction, an aristocrat and soldier who commands respect. Zaroff has a " cultivated voice," fine clothes, and "singularly handsome" features.
Whydoes Rainsford choose to confront Zaroff in the end , rater than simply ambush him? what does this reveal about his personality ? Cite evidence.
Rainsford is a man who has always risen to the challenge; he could have simply escaped and Zaroff would have thought him dead. However, he wants Zaroff to know he lost and he wants Zaroff to feel the fear and dread that the animals, when being hunted, also feel. He also wants to send Zaroff to his death and will not have any other ending. He has won and he wants Zaroff to know.
What is the main conflict in this story? Is the main conflict primarily internal or external? Explain.
What can be inferred by Rainsford sleeping in Zaroff’s bed at the end of the story?
By killing a human Rainsford has gone down to the level that he believed Zaroff to be at, and then by sleeping in his bed we can infer that he has basically "turned into Zaroff". Rainsford turned into the monster that he dreaded the most, his hatred toward the general turned him into something he previously was not.
Is there a resolution in this story or does Rainsford experience an epiphany with no real end to the conflict?