The Most Dangerous Game
Richard Connell authored a short story in the early 20th century detailing the adventures of Rainsford in his quest of hunting big game in Brazil. The plot is set in a remote island in the Caribbean. The highland is inhabited by a rich Russian aristocrat who is a hunter. He has a servant who is a renowned ruthless war veteran and hounds which aid him in hunting. The Russian has brought home many trophies from his hunting trips.
The plot starts with Rainsford setting out to hunt a jaguar in the Amazon with his friend Whitney. Enroute, they pass near the Ship-Trap Island which is dreaded for shipwrecking. While on board, Rainsford and his friend Whitney converse about how they are the hunters and not the hunted in the world. As night falls, they decide to take turns to sleep and Rainsford takes guard. He accidentally falls overboard and unable to catch up with the boat, he decides to swim to the shore. Exhausted, he falls into a deep sleep on the shore. Upon waking up, he sets out to look for food. He stumbles into a chateau owned by a rich Russian aristocrat. Though at first his guard, Ivan, is reluctant to welcome him, Zaroff, the Russian aristocrat, takes him in. as they take supper they talk about hunting and the prizes Zaroff has taken home from his hunting trips. He also hints that he has become tired of hunting and he has been trying a courageous, cunning, and reasoning creatures. After declining to accompany Zaroff to hunt that evening, he goes to bed he later realizes that Zaroff hunts humans and he is about to become his next prey. He realizes that to escape, he must outwit Zaroff and stay alive for three days. After being equipped with clothes, a knife and food, he is given a head start.
His first plan is quickly unraveled by the general and lets him live for another day as he goes back to the chateau. He plunges deeper into the forest and attempts his second trap to kill the general, however, the plan only wounds him and he returns to the house to resume hunting Rainsford the following day. His third trap only kills one of his hound and Zaroff vows to return to kill Rainsford. His fourth attempt to survive he fashions a trap using his knife that kills Ivan. He is however cornered by the hound at a cliff. With Zaroff aggressively pursuing him and hounds nearly incapacitating him, he jumps over the cliff to the waters below. Zaroff, disappointed that he could not kill Rainsford goes home trying to figure out how to replace Ivan. On reaching his bedroom, he finds Rainsford who has swam ashore to escape the hounds and wait for Zaroff in his house. The two men challenge each other to a duel with the winner sleeping soundly in Zaroff’s bed while the other is fed to the hounds. Rainsford wins and sleeps soundly in Zaroffs bed. He had participated and won in the very game he criticized Zaroff for doing. Though he did it for survival, winning the game and becoming a human hunter.
The story also comes packed with several themes. The author structured the plot to elucidate on various themes. Human competition is also featured in this story. Zaroff and Rainsford are huntsmen and they play a game of outwitting animals for various trophies. Zaroff eventually gets tired and tries something more adventurous, hunting humans. In his quest to outwit other humans in hunting, he comes across Rainsford who beats him in his own game. Hunting is a competition of the strongest and fastest. In the case of the two hunters, it was a competition of smartest hunter who gets to live. Eventually, their competition led to loss of lives. Violence is also featured in the story as a primary theme. Violence in this context is in psychological and also physical. Physical violence leads to loss of lives as Rainsford attempts to kill Zaroff and his team in the woods. They also fight for survival when they meet back in Zaroffs house. Psychologically, the author sets the stage for the audience to determine whether hunting is a brutal activity or an amusing sport depending on how they feel about animals. “You’re a big-game hunter, not a philosopher. Who cares how a jaguar feels?” (1.10). perseverance is also a theme well explored in the story. Rainsford shows unending perseverance in a bid to survive the sea and the general. “doggedly he swam in that direction, swimming with slow, deliberate strokes, conserving his strength. For a seemingly endless time he fought the sea” (1.35). swimming in the sea without giving up lands him ashore. He also tries all the tricks up his sleeve while in the wild being hunted by the general. His enduring will to live makes him persevere the challenges and he wins big when he sleeps in the general’s bed alone that evening. The author also explores a theme of man and the natural world. Both huntsmen perceive the world as something to be contained, controlled, opposed, and killed. They have bagged some of the best trophies in hunting game and they seek more challenges. However, zaroff takes the game further and starts hunting humans who come at the top of animals. Rainsford also believe the world is just made up of hunters and huntees. The world is made up of two classes–the hunters and the huntees. Luckily, you and I are hunters. “(1.1) Rainsford assertion shows the position man has claimed in the natural world and his perceived dominance of other species.
Concisely, the author creatively interwove the characters and the plot to bring out various themes. The aforementioned themes from the novel show how the author brings out the thin line between the hunter and the hunted. He also features some of the reasons why a hunter goes after its prey and the product of each encounter is liberation of the hunted or at be at the mercies of the hunter.
- Connel, R. (1924). The Most Dangerous Game.