Critical Analysis Essay of The Most Dangerous Game
First published in 1924, The Most Dangerous Game is a short story written by Richard Connell. It is regarded as one of the author’s finest works because of its intriguing plot and writing technique. The story follows the adventures of a hunter named Rainsford who accidentally falls off his yacht during a hunting trip. He swims to a nearby island where he meets the twisted hunter named General Zaroff. The protagonist soon finds himself hiding and running for his life as he now becomes the huntee. Within this narrative, the author uses important themes. This includes reason versus instinct as well as the theme of hunter versus the prey – both of which were symbolized by the different events and characters of the story.
One of the main themes of this narrative is the concept of instinct versus reason. These two opposing poles were symbolized by the two main characters, Rainsford and Zaroff. And similar to how the two hunters are pitted against each other, so are the concept of reason and instinct. For many people, human intellect is always above instincts simply because the latter only act in order to satisfy needs. As such, reason transforms animals into human as it allows them to function rationally. This belief is represented by the character of General Zaroff who maintains that rational thinking always enables him to triumph over the fear of his prey. He asserts that “Instinct is no match for reason” (Connell 45).
This assumption however was put to the test through the character of Rainsford who functioned from both instinct and rational. As he was being hunted, Rainsford came to the conclusion that humans, similar to animals rely on their instinct which is fear when it comes to survival. He used this fear as leverage and still continued to work methodically in order to conquer Zaroff. And in the end, he proved that both instincts and reason go hand in hand because by relying on both humans are able to triumph almost every adversities (Lyall 68).
Another important theme in this story is the concept of hunter versus prey. This theme was first introduced in the conversation of Whitney and Rainsford. According to Rainsford, the world is made up of only preys and predators. This belief mainly comes from his years of experience as a hunter. More so, his belief was reinforced when he was forced to play the game with the twisted General Zaroff, who now wants to hunt him. The predator instinct of Zaroff is best symbolized by the jungle. Similar to the wild and untamed jungle, Zaroff’s desire to become a predator is also wide and teeming. Alternately, the ungoverned and almost out of control jungle is symbolic of how Rainsford is tangled in this wild environment and must now find a way to release himself (Senn 20).
While Zaroff is the hunter, it is now Rainsford who becomes the prey. In fact, when he was forced to play the game, he suddenly felt the sense of terror and powerlessness that all prey feels whenever they are hunted. Nonetheless, he keeps his fears in check and tries his best to outwit the general. In one of the scenes, Rainsford utters: “I have played the fox, now I must play the cat of the fable” (Connell 56). This indicates that he now understands that the table has turned and he is now the “huntee”; and the only way that he can survive is to not let fear take over him.
Based on the points provided, it can be concluded that the author made use of two important themes in this story. This includes the concept of instincts versus reason as well as the theme of prey versus predator. These two concepts were embodied through the different events and characters of the story.
Connell, R. The Most Dangerous Game. NY:
Lyall, G. The Most Dangerous Game. NY: A&C Black, 2011
Senn, B. The Most Dangerous Game. NY: McFarland, 2013