Explain the theme of "appearance versus reality" in "The Most Dangerous Game". Find two examples from the story to illustrate the theme.

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mercut1469 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Richard Connel's short story "The Most Dangerous Game" is about a big game hunter who has the tables turned on him as he becomes the prey in a deadly contest on a remote island.

Sanger Rainsford accidentally falls from a yacht and swims to an island where he comes upon the "palatial chateau" of General Zaroff. Zaroff lives in splendor. His house features every comfort including a "canopied bed," clothes from a "London tailor," a "baronial hall," "linen," "crystal" and much more. Zaroff comments:

"We do our best to preserve the amenities of civilization here. Please forgive any lapses. We are well off the beaten track, you know. Do you think the champagne has suffered from its long ocean trip?" 

The general's observation, of course, is ironic. The appearance is of "civilization" but what Zaroff is doing on the island is quite savage. In reality, he may live in luxury, but he is a barbarian who get his kicks by hunting and killing men.

Another example of appearance defying reality is at the end of the story when the general is shown reading a book by the Roman emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius:

In his library he read, to soothe himself, from the works of Marcus Aurelius. 

Aurelius's stoicism preached virtue and ethical behavior. It is highly ironic that the sociopath Zaroff would be reading works of philosophy which were far removed from his own reprehensible behavior. 


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The Most Dangerous Game

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