What are two meanings of the word game in the book "The Most Dangerous Game," by Richard Connell?

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Author Richard Connell certainly came up with a clever title for his famed short story, "The Most Dangerous Game." The title can be interpreted in two ways: First, Zaroff's boredom with hunting wild game has led him to hunting humans. He finds their intelligence and will to live to be far more challenging than even the most dangerous beast. Thus, the human prey is the most dangerous type of game (animal). On the other hand, for the same reasons noted above (intelligence, will to live), the game (contest) that Zaroff has invented is far more dangerous for the hunter, since it is always possible that his human prey--armed with a knife, like Rainsford--can somehow come away as the winner of the game. Zaroff eventually found out that, indeed, the hunting of a human is the most dangerous game.

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The title "The Most Dangerous Game" can be interpreted to mean that human beings are the most dangerous animals for any man to hunt. It can also be interpreted to mean that Rainsford himself is the most dangerous game animal, or prey, that Zaroff has ever run into. The title can also be interpreted to mean that the game Zaroff plays with human beings is the most dangerous experience they themselves will ever have in their lives. Or it could be interpreted to mean that Rainsford himself has always thought of hunting as a game and now finds himself playing the most dangerous game of this type that he has ever played. 

In Ingmar Bergman's marvelous motion picture The Seventh Seal, the knight finds himself playing a long game of chess with Death. The knight can stay alive as long as he can at least keep from being check-mated. He knows that he is sure to lose the game in the long run because every mortal loses, but his love of life and fear of death keep him using his wits to keep the chess game going for as long as possible. We can easily identify with Rainsford in "The Most Dangerous Game" because we all cling to life and are afraid of death. Here is what one of Shakespeare's characters has to say about death in Measure for Measure:

Ay, but to die, and go we know not where;
To lie in cold obstruction, and to rot;
This sensible warm motion to become
A kneaded clod; and the delighted spirit
To bathe in fiery floods or to reside
In thrilling regions of thick-ribbed ice;
To be imprison'd in the viewless winds,
And blown with restless violence round about
The pendent world; or to be worse than worst
Of those that lawless and incertain thought
Imagine howling!--'tis too horrible!
The weariest and most loathed worldly life
That age, ache, penury, and imprisonment
Can lay on nature is a paradise
To what we fear of death.       Act 3, Scene 1


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