Setting and characterization in ‘The Destructors’ by Graham Greene and ‘The Most Dangerous Game’ by Richard Connell has been used to increase the effectiveness of the themes and motifs.
Even though the stories are written by different writers, there is a striking similarity in the use of elements to communicate the deeper meaning of the two tales. The setting of ‘The Destroyers’ is a gang of youth formed in the period after the Second World War.
Connell’s story is set on a remote island far away from civilized human society. In ‘The Most dangerous Game’ Connell explores the theme of Rainsford’s human rationality and intellect as opposed to Zaroff’s beastly instinct by setting the story in a jungle.
Rainsford, a fine human and a fighter, falls prey to Zaroff’s insane and bizarre sadistic hunt. In ‘The Destroyers’ Greene explores a similar theme of uncanny destruction by T. and his gang who have no real motive for destroying Mr. Thomas’ house.
Both stories, “The Destructors” and “The Most Dangerous Game” explore the raw human grit and determination and are prime examples of the underlying destructive nature of mankind.
Set in the post World War II, Greene’s characters in ‘The Destructors’ represent the divide between the various generations, the old and the new.
Mr Thomas symbolizes the old ways, beliefs and mindset while the gang is symbolic of the new generation, completely dissociated from their past, incapable of understanding or respecting old traditions and customs.
Mr Thomas believes that his age and experience give him the authority to instruct the boys about the things they should or should not do. However, the boys at the threshold of youth are selfish and destructive by nature and refuse to accept authority.
The initial leader of the gang, Blackie is mischievous but not dangerous. When T. takes over, the dynamics of the gang change and under his leadership the gang assumes a more destructive stance.
Blackie represents the qualities of a good leader while T. is symbolic of a leader who believes that power gives the right to dominate and destroy.
In ‘The Most Dangerous Game’ the protagonist of the story, Sanger Rainsford is a daring game hunter with the ability to fearlessly face the most challenging situations with ease. Zaroff, on the other hand, is destructive man and uses power to feed his animal instincts.
While both Rainsford and Zaroff are brave and powerful, Rainsford uses power responsibly in contrast to Zaroff who uses power to satiate his animal instincts simply for the sake of pleasure.
Rainsford is similar in his ways to Blackie, of ‘The Destructors’ in their use of power with conscientiousness. Zaroff is comparable with T. of ‘The Destructors’ in his misuse of power to destroy things simply for the sake of pleasure.
Even though the two stories are different, there is a striking similarity between the characters. Set in the post World War period, they are relevant even in today’s world, giving them a universal appeal.
The jungle in ‘The Most Dangerous Game’ is strongly symbolic of the chaotic and powerful nature of Zaroff, which knows no limits. Within the jungle, the struggle for survival supersedes all other needs.
Rainsford constantly struggles to save himself from Zaroff who has lost complete control of himself. Zaroff and Rainsford present the stark contrast of the jungle and civilization; Zaroff is animal like in his instincts and severely lacks the ability to think and reason, while Rainsford is a representation of a civilized society which rejects violence in favour of human sanity and peace.
Zaroff is offensive like the wilderness of the jungle while Rainsford is defensive in his actions and behaviour.
On similar terms, Greene’s ‘The Destructors’ presents a modern view of the civilized society as a jungle in which the old and young differ in values, beliefs, morals and ethics.
The formation of the youth gang is symbolic of today’s modern jungle in which the younger generation vents energy through physical power and destruction.
There is a disconnect between the youth and the past who no longer revere history or its makers represented by the Wormsley Common gang led by T. T. assumes leadership of the gang from Blackie and plans to destroy the innocent and old Mr. Thomas’s house.
T. forces his beliefs and decisions on the other members of the gang and asserts his power over them.
The shift in power occurs from the non-dangerous and mischievous Blackie to the conspiring, angry and irrational T. Despite his destructive and irrational behaviour, T. does not want to cause any harm to Mr. Thomas and tries to protect him from damage by keeping him safe.
This aspect of T.’s personality is indicative of the struggle between the good and evil in humans. T. is a symbol of the youth in the modern day society which shares a lost relationship with Mr. Thomas, representing the older generation.
While T. is determined on destroying the traditional house, he has no personal hatred for Mr. Thomas and wants no harm to come to the old man.
T. is fully aware of the beauty of the house but knows its association with the higher social order, which he seeks to destroy by destroying the house.
The Destructors in Greene’s story have created a man-made jungle with their animal like instincts of destruction. Similarly, Connell’s characters represent the real jungle in which man has to save himself from the brutality and savagery of other animals.
Zaroff’s hunt for Rainsford forces Rainsford to use his cat like instinct in order to keep match with the animal in Zaroff. This descent of Rainsford from a rational thinking human to that of an animal is symbolic of the basic human instinct which tries to survive at all costs and never gives up.
Rainsford who has on earlier occasions functioned like the fox, is now forced to behave like the cat to save himself from the preying Zaroff. In order to keep pace with Zaroff, Rainsford has to stoop down to his level of an animal, though of a different order.
After creating a misleading path through the jungle to lose Zaroff on the first night of the hunt, Rainsford switches modes and hides in a tree to save some of his strength.
Both stories demonstrate the grit and determination of humans to succeed and win, albeit for different reasons. In Cornell’s ‘The Most Dangerous Game’ Raisnford and Zaroff fight till the end to succeed and beat each other.
While Zaroff is a psychopathic sadist who kills without a purpose, Rainsford kills only to protect himself. In ‘The Destroyers’ Greene portrays the picture of a conflicted jungle-like society post World War II in which the youth do not have a purpose to destroy but do so for the sake of power.
While both the stories represent man’s basic human instinct for destruction, Greene’s characters are less harmful than those of Connell.
Zoraff is completely animal like in his behaviour lacking empathy, compassion and reason while T. is only irrational and does not cause physical harm to Mr. Thomas; on the contrary, he makes sure that Mr. Thomas is safe in his out-house when the house is being pulled down.
Both the stories are symbolic of instinctive human nature which can be devastatingly destructive without any purpose, rationality or logic. The protagonists in both stories demonstrate the underlying will to succeed.
Graham, Greene. The Destructors, 1954. Print.
Richard, Connell. The Most Dangerous Game, 1924. Print.