The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell


The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell

The author of this intriguing short story known as ‘The Most Dangerous Game’ is Richard Connell. The story is set in the middle of the 1930s as some references have been made regarding the involvements of Russian nationals in the war. Furthermore, the action in the short story was on Ship-Trap Island in the Caribbean Sea. Many intriguing activities were taking place at the Island and they were helpful in interpreting some character traits of human beings. This paper seeks to give a critical analysis of the themes of effects of war and reason versus instinct, and how they have been portrayed using some literature elements.


Instinct versus reason is evident in ‘The Most Dangerous Game’ as portrayed by the characters of General Zaroff and Rainsford, who are always fighting each other. Connell wants to question the idea that exists concerning civilization, as well as what it means when people say that a civilized human being exists. Furthermore, the two are involved in a hunt that ensures that Connell can blur the existing line between animal and human, prey and hunter. With regards to literary elements, this shows that the use of symbolism is quite evident in trying to put more emphasize on instinct versus reason. The struggle between Zaroff and Rainsford is compared to a struggle between evil and good.

Reason and instinct are not quite mutually and traditionally exclusive as most people seem to think. Philosophers and writers have for a long time believed that the ability of human beings to reason as well as their intellect is above the instincts, which wild animals have. Animals are believed to have no form of moral compulsions and tend to act solely based on the need to satisfy their own needs. This proves that animals can be transformed or likened to people because of reason. In turn, they can be able to live in harmony with various functioning societies.

For example, Whitney is claiming that animals have an instinct whereby, on various occasions, they feel fear. He is even frightened upon hearing about the description of the Ship-Trap Island based on Captain Neilson’s description. The perception Whitney has concerning the island has made him quite fearful and this is similar to how the animal responds to danger. Also, the irony is used to emphasize how human beings seem to think that they use reason and instinct, but this is not always the case. It is not surprising that Rainsford thinks that he is going to hunt, but in reality, he is the one who is going to be hunted.


Wartime experiences are interpreted differently by Zaroff and Rainsford despite the fact that they are wealthy hunters and have similar backgrounds. Zaroff goes as far as telling Rainsford about his experiences when he was fighting against the Russian army. He owes his allegiance to the division of the Cossack Calvary because it what a real man is meant to do. It is because of this allegiance that the love Zaroff has for hunting is not realized. However, he is still the general of his army and is more interested in gaining as much power as possible as compared to defending the innocent lives of others.

People have different meanings concerning war and this depends on what role they play during such times. According to Connell, the marital experiences of Zaroff have altered the way in which he thinks and perceives reality. He has even gone to the extent of believing that everyone who is in Ship-Trap Island is prey that has to be hunted down. In this case, symbolism has been used when referring to the manner which Zaroff acts. The symbol used is a rifle and it means that Zaroff is only interested in anything that will be achieved through using his rifle.

His disdain for humanity and inflated ego, as well as his ever-present sadistic thrill, are causing harm and suffering to others. Zaroff seems to think that Rainsford is overly puritan, primly Victorian, as well as being outrageously naïve. On the contrary, he has opposing views about the experiences of the First World War. He suffered immensely as he did not have the needed tools for digging trenches. It is because of such experiences of powerlessness and desperation that flashback is used to describe such vivid pictures of the past.


In conclusion, ‘The Most Dangerous Game’ has proven that human beings will always have different perceptions about certain events as well as how nature manifests itself. Through the theme of reason versus instinct, it is evident that human beings act using their instinct and reason depending on the situation at hand. Also, the effects of war affect people differently, thus people need to be prepared in advance in case of such situations. Richard Connell has done a commendable job of proving that conflicts between man versus nature and man versus man will always be present. Therefore, things are not what they always seem to appear as good will always win and people deemed as being opponents should never be undermined.



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