Suspense is Key in The Most Dangerous Game

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In Richard Connell’s short story, “The Most Dangerous Game,” the protagonist Rainsford, a hunter, finds himself stranded on a mysterious island after accidentally falling off the side of his boat. He is welcomed at the door by General Zaroff, a noble Cossack who lives on the dangerous island. Zaroff tells Rainsford that he is a fellow big-game hunter and he has exhausted hunting every animal around the world. He has now chosen to hunt humans, and Rainsford is his next dangerous game. Ultimately, Connell uses different writing techniques to keep his readers wanting more.

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Connell creates suspense in the short story through the use of imagery. For example, when Rainsford is on the ship with Whitney, he struggles to see through, “The dank tropical night that was palpable as it pressed its think warm blackness in upon the yacht” (1). Connell integrates the word “dank” which means unpleasantly moist or humid. This evokes an eerie feeling in the readers by displaying a suspenseful atmosphere; the “thick warm blackness” can also show how Rainsford does not know what is in store for him in the dark. Furthermore, when Rainsford hears the gunshots from afar, he races to the rail of the ship and Connell states that, “The cry was pinched off short as the blood-warm water of the Caribbean Sea dosed over his head” (2). Connel uses imagery in this sentence to tell the readers that the sea is an unideal color because no one wants to imagine going into bloody seas. The gunshots can also connote that there is someone dangerous somewhere close by. Lastly, when the Rainsford is on the island, he sees how, “the sea licked greedy lips in the shadows” (4). Connel uses personification to give the sea human traits and show how the sea is hungry to eat people. This suggests Rainsford is in an unknown place, which could foreshadow what might happen next. To conclude, Connel keeps his readers at the edge of their seats by the use of vivid imagery.

In addition to imagery, Connell also uses foreshadowing to build suspense in his tale. For example, the title of the short story has multiple different meanings. When readers first look at the title, the first thought that comes into their minds is that the story is about an actual game that people can play. As readers progress through the story, Rainsford talks to Zaroff about the game, which is now uncovered as hunting game; however, this interpretation is also incorrect in relation to this story because in Zaroff’s mind, the most dangerous game is actually hunting humans. Furthermore, when Rainsford and his crew were passing Ship-Trap island, Whitney claims that the, “sailors have a curious dread of the place” (1). The readers get a feeling of dread when they think about the unknown place Rainsford and his crew are sailing through and in addition to that, the crew is already afraid of the place because of a superstition, which makes the situation even more suspenseful. The narrator mentions Ship Trap Island because the name itself can have anyone on a ship feel apprehensive; the author wants to foreshadow dangerous events which might take place relating to the place everyone is in constant dread of. Lastly when Rainsford was having a conversation with Zaroff about hunting, the general said that, “Hunting ceased to interest me some years ago. I exhausted their possibilities you see. No thrill left in tigers, no real danger. I live for danger Mr. Rainsford” (6). The general mentions how the tiger is not a real danger, which leaves the reader with a dread of what Zaroff could find thrill in if it’s not the tigers. Connell is trying to show us how there is more to Zaroff and his hunting than what is being presented; furthermore,

Zaroff also mentions how he is not even interested in one of the most dangerous animals, which goes to show how the readers can only imagine what is more dangerous than tigers.

Suspense gives the readers a sense of purpose and excitement on their journey through the book. Connell uses imagery and foreshadowing to display the elements which take place later in the story. Every good literary piece must create some form of suspense to keep readers anxiously anticipating the outcome of certain events. If suspense did not exist in a story, readers would stop reading because suspense is crucial in order to absorb someone into the story. As said famously by Tom Clancy, and American film director, “Every story needs an element of suspense - or it’s lousy.”

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