“The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell is an intriguing work of fiction that effortlessly combines both aspects of literary and commercial fiction. Connell was able to write a piece that successfully combines fast-paced action as well as upholding literary merit. Not only did Connell write this story with an exciting and adventurous component, he also managed to convey a deeper meaning within the story by allowing his readers to be pulled into the excitement of the story, while also giving them an insight to a darker, more primitive side of human beings. He creatively depicts a unique setting in which the main character has nothing to fear but mankind itself. Connell not only generates an original storyline, but also grants the audience a unique perspective of the morality of man as well as the value of human life making this piece of fiction renowned.
Due to the entertainment value that “The Most Dangerous Game” provides, it could easily be classified as commercial fiction. However, it is the suspenseful aspect of the story that leaves the audience yearning for more. For example, “An abrupt sound startled him. Off to the right, he heard it, and his ears, expert in such matters, could not be mistaken. Again he heard the sound, and again. Somewhere, off in the blackness, someone had fired a gun three times.” (Connell 11). This statement can be found early on in the story and adds a factor of mystery which grabs the audience’s attention and makes the reader want to continue reading in order to find out who may be firing the gunshots and why. It allows the reader’s imagination to really go wild and really begin to make assumptions of what may be going on, which also adds to the factor of suspense and anticipation. As the story progresses, the suspense continues to build as we read about the two characters struggle to survive and their ambition to kill one another. Connell continues to drag the reader deeper into the story and leaving them on the edge of their seat.
For instance, “He struggled up to the surface and tried to cry out, but the wash from the speeding yacht slapped him in the face…” (Connell 11). The sense of lonesome Connell gives the audience allows the reader to really feel empathy towards Rainsford. It leaves the reader knowing that from this point on, it will be Rainsford faces his endeavors alone. They feel a sense of desolation and isolation that some may find relatable.
However, as the story progresses, we can find it to be quite adventurous and fast-paced when the reader finds Rainsford pitted in a merciless game for his survival against Zaroff. Connell does a wonderful job by using a vast amount of vivid imagery which really puts makes the reader imagine the terrain and setting Rainsford is in. Connell does an amazing job at using such descriptive words and really allows the reader to place themselves within Rainsford’s shoes. His descriptive imagery truly sets the mood and vividly depicts the setting, making it easy to get lost in the story.
Although Connell shows many aspects of commercial fiction within “The Most Dangerous Game”, it is very easy to find a dark underlying tone in the story that reveals a primitive and animalistic side of human nature. Connell makes the reader question the ethics of the characters driving the plot. For example, in the beginning of the story Rainsford can be seen having a very Darwinistic attitude towards hunting animals while General Zaroff has the same approach towards hunting humans. However, General Zaroff has lost sight of the value of human life entirely. He is blinded by the fact that he no longer is able to find a game worthy enough for him to hunt anymore and is baffled by the fact that Rainsford refuses to agree with him. “The weak of the world were put here to give the strong pleasure. I am strong.”(Connell 18). This adds more conflict to the storyline while simultaneously placing Rainsford in a position where the hunter becomes the hunted. “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.” (Connell 17).
At this point Rainsford is now really placed within an animal’s shoe and it is safe to say that these events have caused a drastic change in his mindset. This clash in ethics can be heavily associated with concepts of literary fiction. Another interesting matter that Connell presents is the contrast between instinct and reason. Animals rely on their instincts for survival while we as humans utilize reason to adapt and evolve. Zaroff describes a worthy opponent as one that “must have courage, cunning, and above all it must be able to reason.” (Connell 17). Zaroffs theory is confirmed when Rainsford finds himself in this game of cat and mouse equipped with nothing but a knife and his wit. He is put in a battle against nature and fellow man and must use his thinking skills in order to survive.
In conclusion, while Connells’s “The Most Dangerous Game” may be categorized as a work of commercial fiction by creating a vivid setting and suspenseful plot, it also displays qualities of literary fiction by presenting the audience with a moral dilemma. Connell keeps the reader interested to the story with the action-driven storyline while simultaneously giving the reader a glimpse of a more dark, bestial side of human beings. Connell provokes debate within the reader making them question the value of human life, the ethics of man, and the contrast of instinct opposed to reason.
- Connell, Richard. “The Most Dangerous Game.” Perrines Story and Structure: An Introduction to Fiction. 13th ed. Ed. Thomas R. Arp and Greg Johnson. Boston: Wadsworth, 2012. 9-27. Print.