The short story, The Most Dangerous Game, by Richard Connell is about the hunter and the hunted, and the suspense created by competition and human survival. The situational irony at the end of the story makes you think about what you would do when faced with death and what lengths you would go to avoid it.
The author effectively uses suspense, dilemma and situational irony to illustrate the theme of good versus evil.
The story takes place in 1924 on a small island called Ship Trap Island located in the Caribbean (The Most Dangerous Game, Connell pg. 9). The protagonist of the story, Rainsford, and his partner, Whitney are sailing in the darkness that engulfed the sea. Their purpose is to do what they considered to be the greatest sport. They were hunters and were headed to the Amazon to hunt Jaguars, and tigers. Sailors feared this island and Rainsford thought it was just outright imagination. The sky is filled with darkness when suddenly; he hears three gun shots followed by more shots again and again. A piercing scream startles Rainsford and the pipe he is smoking falls out of his mouth and into the sea below. As he tries to reach for it he falls into the water and no one hears him scream. His only chance for survival is to swim. Rainsford swims for what seems like an eternity and ends up at the shoreline of the island. He walks on the shoreline and later finds a place that looks like a mansion. There he meets the antagonist of the story General Zaroff who bought the island to hunt. Zaroff was a hunter as well but wants a different type of thrill that the big game animals no longer provided. He would train men from the ships that were wrecked and stranded on the island. He then would provide them with food and a knife for three days. Once they were trained they were led out into the island and given a head start while Zaroff chase after them and they became the hunted. If they survived the three days Zaroff released the men and they were sworn to secrecy about the island. Zaroff never played fair and always won. If one of the men being hunted was about to survive he would release the hounds to chase after them. Rainsford was against this type of hunting which he considered murder. Rainsford verbally sparred with Zaroff. I refuse to believe that so modern and civilized a young man as you seem to be harbors romantic ideas about the value of human life. Surely your experiences in war (pg. 17) and argued with him that this hunting style was brutal and insane. Did not make me condone cold blooded murder, (pg. 18). In this argument Zaroff got mad and at this point in the story the suspense and thrill of the story begins as Rainsford becomes the hunted. Rainsford now faces the dilemma of killing another man or dying. He is let loose into the island were he is placed in the dilemma of preparing himself for the most dangerous game of his life, the survival of the fittest. During the three day hunt Rainsford survived by setting traps that kill one of the dogs and also Zaroff's servant Ivan. Rainsford jumps into the sea as he has nowhere else to run. Zaroff is disappointed and assumes that Rainsford has escaped and he has lost. Zaroff returns to his mansion with the rest of his dogs and eats dinner as if the hunt is normal. There were two slight annoyances that kept Zaroff from perfect enjoyment. One was the thought of how to replace Ivan; the other was that his quarry that had escaped him. (pg. 26) Suspense is created once more as Zaroff discovers Rainsford hiding in the curtains of the Generals bed. Rainsford had swum back to the mansion and waited for Zaroff.
Rainsford reminds Zaroff that he is still the hunted. I am still a beast at bay, Get ready, General Zaroff. (pg 27) General Zaroff replies, Splendid! One of us is to furnish a repast for the hounds. The other will sleep in this very excellent bed. On guard Rainsford. (pg 27) and they end up in a sword fight with Rainsford being the last man standing... The situational irony in this story is Rainsford believed that the animals he hunted had no fear or feelings about being hunted. Those feelings were felt by Rainsford as he was being hunted.
This was a well written story that had suspense, drama and situational irony that made you think. This was commercial fiction that outlined the perfect format of Good versus Evil, and how good finally won out through Zaroffs death