Some stories have a clear-cut progression that fits into a standard plot diagram. Others are left for interpretation by the reader.
In this lesson, we will review and analyze the arguments over the climax and falling action of the short story, ‘The Most Dangerous Game’ by Richard Connell.
The Height of Tension and Its Result
Why do we read? There has to be something that makes us keep turning the pages. Once a conflict is put in place, we all wait to see how it unfolds. Will he ever propose to her? Is there going to be a huge fight between the two gangs? Will she beat cancer? These questions are usually answered in the climax of a story. The climax is the highest point of tension, which is then followed by the falling action. The falling action ties up all the loose ends of the conflict and leads us to the resolution and the end of the story.In ‘The Most Dangerous Game’ by Richard Connell, the story has more than one school of thought surrounding the plot diagram.
Let’s take a look at the story and analyze the plot diagram in relation to the climax and the falling action.
Who Will Win the Hunt?
The main conflict of the story surrounds Rainsford being hunted by General Zaroff. Zaroff sends Rainsford into the jungle with clothing, food, and a knife. The tension builds as Rainsford decides to fight back by creating false trails to confuse the general.
Zaroff finds Rainsford but lets him go, longing to extend the game. Rainsford then decides to set up a series of traps to defend himself. The first trap injures the general’s shoulder, the second kills one of Zaroff’s dogs, and the third takes the life of Zaroff’s servant, Ivan.As Zaroff and his dogs continue to pursue Rainsford, Rainsford runs until he is stopped by a twenty-foot cliff. Rainsford hears the dogs coming and jumps into the sea. In this moment the reader is left to wonder what will happen to Rainsford and what will become of Zaroff and his dogs.
Most feel this is the highest point of tension because the hunt is over, and the reader is left to wonder if Rainsford’s choice is an act of suicide or wit.
What Will Become of Rainsford?
Zaroff gets to the cliff-side and ponders the missing prey. The mood becomes less tense as Zaroff sits down to smoke a cigarette. Eventually, he heads back to the house for dinner. He thinks about Ivan and then Rainsford, annoyed he will have to replace his servant and that he was defeated by his prey.After dinner, Zaroff heads to his room.
Hiding in the darkness behind a curtain is Rainsford, waiting to fight. Rainsford steps out of the darkness and surprises Zaroff. Zaroff accepts the challenge with a smile. This scene is the falling action of the story, tying up the loose ends from the hunt and leading to the resolution of Rainsford killing Zaroff and sleeping in his bed.
A Second Opinion
While the summary above is acceptable, there is another way to possibly map out the plot diagram.
It can be argued that the climax is actually Rainsford appearing in Zaroff’s bedroom, and the falling action is the implied fight, which leads to the same resolution. It seems more than acceptable that Rainsford coming out of from behind the curtains and startling Zaroff is a plot twist that follows the definition of a climax.
We read for the feeling of wanting to know what comes next, and that feeling usually brings us to the climax of a story. The climax is the highest point of tension that is followed by the falling action, which ties up all the loose ends of the major conflicts. In the short story, ‘The Most Dangerous Game,’ there is the possibility of a debate over the correct mapping of the plot diagram. Some believe that Rainsford jumping off the cliff into the ocean is the climax, and everything that follows up until Zaroff’s death is the falling action, while others suggest that Rainsford stepping out of the darkness and surprising Zaroff in his bedroom is the climax, and the implied fight to the death is the falling action.