The destructive power of the conflict in terms of human history is vividly manifested in The Most Dangerous Game novel written by Richard Connell in 1924. It is a strangely unique short narrative, depicting multiple conflicts throughout the entire plot with the battling nature of the main characters. More specifically, Rainsford, a big-game hunter from New York and Zaroff, a Russian aristocrat, and the society itself. As the man who fought in the war himself, Connell created a story where one can sense the disastrous effect of the experienced violence. Considering this, the novel conveys the overall impact of the brutality on the minds of human beings, as part of society, by raising a question of the justifiable murder.
Critical points of Richard Connell’s biography
The celebrated American writer Richard Connell was born in Poughkeepsie, New York. He was a Harvard-trained newspaper reporter and an insatiable reader. Connell started writing since his early years and became an editor volunteer for the newspaper. He created an abundant heritage with more than 300 short stories over his comparatively short 30-year writing career (Grobman et al., 2016). At an older age, he published many novels and short stories, among which was The Most Dangerous Game that brought him imperishable fame (Babamiri, 2017, p.1). The idea of the literary masterpiece is about losing self-control, about fear and frustrations, about the culture forming and civilization issues, as well as the adverse outcomes after the passage of the war.
Summary of the novel and the analysis of Sanger Rainsford
The story portrays the protagonist Sanger Rainsford, a young American writer and a world-renowned big-game hunter with the adventurous spirit. Rainsford, with another hunter Whitney, is sailing through the Caribbean on their way to Brazil, where they aimed to hunt jaguar up the Amazon River. As a combat veteran of World War I, Rainsford courageously endures the unfortunate accident of the shipwreck that occurs late one night and brings him to the rocky shore of the island.
After the deepest sleep of his life and more exploration, Rainsford discovers, what seemed a mirage, a remarkable vision of northern European luxury and excess (Thompson, 2018, p. 2). He meets General Zaroff in his mansion, the man, who is passionate about only one thing in life, the hunt, and is already familiar with the Rainsford’s achievements. Considering him as a new victim, Zaroff is genuinely honest about his passion as he opens up about his preference for hunting the kind of animal that brings reason, which he called the “big game.” The next morning Rainsford is being told about the Zaroff’s mission to be hunted and, petrified, Rainsford departs and decides to outsmart the Russian aristocrat. After a continuing cat-and-mouse play with each other, several traps and injuries, Rainsford defeats General Zaroff in his mansion.
Connell’s novel challenged the basic principles of morality with its gruesome plot. According to Romagnoli, the novel is addressing the conflict in all of its flavors and is used as a literary trope (2017, p. 27). The writer conveyed the strong battling nature of both of the characters. Sanger Rainsford is an ardent big game hunter, who is swimming to the shore with the firm will to survive and is fully prepared for such an experience based on his past. He meets Zaroff, the island’s only civilized inhabitant, a man who is as much passionately devoted to hunting as Rainsfordand is. He gives Sanger an intimidating ultimatum to withstand a three-day deadly fight of human versus human or more accurately hunter versus hunted. Another case of the battling nature is manifested when Rainsford doubts his ability to avoid being killed.
The analysis of antagonist General Zaroff
General Zaroff, on the other hand, is a man who also experienced the war and seen a lot of dead people in front of himself. Consequently, his past affected his mental health and psych, however, in a very contrary way. Zaroff does not hesitate to become a murderer and shows no respect for other people’s lives, which makes him potentially dangerous for the protagonist Rainsford.
Zaroff hunting Rainsford and his “perverted philosophy of how hunting people are not ethically justified by society” is another sign of the battling nature (Romagnoli, 2017, p. 27). He claims that God made him a hunter, and his hand was made for a trigger, which was initiated by his father at the very young age of Zaroff. His sickly passionate hunting made it boring for General Zaroff to hunt animals and led him to hunt the people instead. While the protagonist and antagonist are equally matched in skills, for the “antagonist, who was hunting animals had long outlived his challenge, and only a new animal capable of reasoning would test his skills” (Grobman et al., 2016, p.191). Human beings amuse Zaroff in the way that they bring reasons, and he can demonstrate his power to them.
The symbolic undertone of the plot
The events of the novel take place in the jungle, which the author symbolically interprets in order to show the corrupted civilization. Following the ideas of Babamiri, the wild and ungovernable habitat of the jungle assumes the role of the “powerful symbol of Zaroff’s tangled psyche, and the chaos within the island” (2017, p.284). It also symbolizes the constraint and loss of control by Rainsford, as it disrupts his attempt to return to civilization. With the lack of rules, the jungle is not the place for humans to inhabit, because it makes them forget that they are first of all humans.
Under the absence of any societal rules, the hunter is more likely to lose both his moral and human principles. Besides, in such conditions, he inclined to nurture the atrocity into his soul. Such an outcome was a direct post effect of the war that made General Zaroff a real animal with no sympathy for others (Babamiri, 2017). Passing through the war ruined the power of civilization and its cultural values. Even though civilization existed for a long time, it was modified by new cultural values. Babamiri states that “culture is the advancement in a civilization, but civilization is a state of social culture” (2017, p.280). Referring to the question of the war effect on the minds of the main characters that embody the writer himself, it caused them to eliminate the limits of self-restraint that were respected before.
The central concept of The Most Dangerous Game, as intended by the author, is the notion of the absolute most dangerous game, which is human versus human. Rainsford versus Zaroff is the central conflict in the novel of two adventurous and courageous men, unified by the passage of war but separated by fundamentally different effects of the violent interpersonal background. Considering the wild environment issues of the jungle, one can trace the striking impact and gap of human manifestation. Connell is questioning the role of civilized society, as a good impact on Rainsford, despite his passion for animal hunting. Thus, the absence of it was a bad impact on Zaroff, who voluntarily chose the solitude in ungovernable habitat, which led to the horrific violence towards humans that was paid off in terms of justice.
Babamiri, N. (2017) ‘The revival of the underscored value of life and lost civilization in The most dangerous game.’ International review of humanities and scientific research, 2(2), pp.279-286.
Grobman, S., Cerra, A. and Young, C. (2016) The second economy: the race for trust, treasure and time in the cybersecurity war. New York: Apress.
Romagnoli, A. (2017) ‘The man with identities’, in S. Eckard, (ed.) Comic connections. Analyzing Hero and Identity. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, pp.23-28.
Thompson, T. (2018) Potemkin Redux: Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game”. ANQ: A Quarterly Journal of Short Articles, Notes and Reviews. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/0895769X.2018.1537837