‘The Most Dangerous Game’ is a short story published in 1924 by Richard Connell.
This lesson will explore how the author uses two literary tools of comparison, simile and metaphor, to help the reader easily identify and visualize the story.
‘The Most Dangerous Game’ Summary
‘The Most Dangerous Game’ is a short story written by Richard Connell. The story revolves around the main character, Sanger Rainsford, who is an accomplished and well-known hunter from New York. He is sailing in the Caribbean Sea.The story opens with him falling off of the boat and swimming to a mysterious island, which he has been told has a mysteriously bad reputation with sailors.
Rainsford encounters General Zaroff, a Cossack, who owns a spectacular mansion on the island, which is decorated with the heads of all kinds of exotic big game animals.After much discussion, Zaroff informs Rainsford that he is hunting the only animal that challenges him anymore, the only animal who has the ability to reason: humans. You can probably guess how the story goes from there. Zaroff forces Rainsford to be his prey. In the end, Rainsford prevails, but only after almost being caught and killed by General Zaroff several times.
Connell’s story is extremely dark and descriptive. In order to bring the reader into this harrowing world, he uses literary tools of description like similes and metaphors to illustrate this strange tale.
What Is a Simile?
Have you ever heard Simon Cowell from American Idol say something like, ‘That was like listening to a room full of cats screaming for their supper’? Whether Simon knows it or not, he is using similes to judge the unfortunate recipient of such a comment.Similes are comparisons used in speech or writing that utilize the words ‘like’ or ‘as.’ The writer uses similes to help the reader visualize or experience exactly what they are reading. Similes illustrate feelings, moods and landscapes in a way that’s easy for the reader to understand.Other famous examples of simile could include:
- Patrick Swayze’s song from Dirty Dancing where he sings ‘She’s like the wind through the trees.
- Katy Perry’s song ‘Firework,’ where she says ‘Do you ever feel, feel so paper thin/Like a house of cards, one blow from caving in?’
- ‘Life is like a box of chocolates’ from Forrest Gump.
A good author uses similes to extract immediate visual images from the reader’s imagination through the comparison to common things a reader can grasp.
‘The Most Dangerous Game’ Similes
While establishing the setting of the story, Rainsford describes the heat of the tropical night by saying, ‘It’s like moist black velvet.’ Immediately, the reader can relate to the texture and heaviness of black velvet and can picture how humid and dark the night is.Later when Rainsford is in the sea and is straining to see ahead of him, the narrator says, ‘It was like trying to see through a blanket.’ This communicates darkness and heaviness again, while also adding the feeling of being unable to see clearly.
Another simile is used when the general is giving Rainsford a tour of the island and reveals that he has set a trap, using lights to trick ships into thinking that there is a safe channel when there isn’t one: ‘They indicate a channel,’ he said, ‘where there’s none; giant rocks with razor edges crouch like a sea monster with wide-open jaws.’Similarly, when Rainsford is being hunted and is hiding from the General, he observes that the ‘apprehensive night crawled slowly by like a wounded snake.’Another example of simile used to enhance the dark feeling of the story occurs Rainsford first meets General Zaroff. He describes him this way: ‘He was a tall man past middle age, for his hair was a vivid white; but his thick eyebrows and pointed military mustache were as black as the night from which Rainsford had come.’A final example of Connell using simile to illustrate the vexing nature of the story occurs when Rainsford is about halfway through the hunt with the general.
The general has almost caught him twice, and Rainsford is fighting to keep his courage and wits about him. The narrator says, ‘His hands were tight closed as if his nerve were something tangible that someone in the darkness was trying to tear from his grip.’
‘The Most Dangerous Game’ Metaphors
A metaphor, like a simile, is also a comparison used to illustrate a concept or an event for the readers. The difference between a metaphor and simile is that metaphors can be larger and do not use the words ‘like’ or ‘as.
‘For instance, the entire short story is a metaphor that illustrates the struggle between the hunter and the hunted. From the moment Rainsford enters the general’s trap, he becomes prey for the general’s warped game.This metaphor is reinforced throughout the story. Here are a few examples of how the metaphor is further elucidated: The general’s smile is described as animal-like with ‘red lips and pointed teeth.
‘ This metaphor automatically conjures up images of an aggressive, dangerous animal with blood dripping from its mouth.Later when Rainsford realizes that the general could have caught him, but didn’t in order to let the game continue, the narrator observes, ‘The Cossack was the cat; he was the mouse. Then it was that Rainsford knew the full meaning of terror.’By calling General Zaroff a cat and Rainsford the mouse, Connell brings to mind images of a cat playing aggressively with a helpless mouse.
This idea of toying with prey is central to the overall disturbed feeling of the story.
We’ve covered the definitions of simile, a literary comparison using ‘like’ or ‘as’, and metaphor, a literary comparison used to evoke images and understanding without using ‘like’ or ‘as.’ Additionally, we have seen how these literary tools can be used by talented authors, such as Connell, to draw the reader into such a horrifying and dark experience that is ‘The Most Dangerous Game’.