How do you write an indirect characterization essay about Rainsford from "The Most Dangerous Game?"

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The author uses indirect characterization to show that Rainsford is egotistical, principled, and highly skilled.

There are two types of characterization: direct and indirect characterization. With direct characterization, the author or narrator tells you what the character is like specifically and directly. With indirect characterization, we learn about the character indirectly through his actions, and what others say about him.

When you write an essay, you have to begin with a strong thesis statement.  A thesis is a simple, clear, direct statement in which you specifically address the prompt.  In this case, your thesis statement needs to explain what character traits Rainsford has indirectly characterized with in one clear succinct list.

Here is an example thesis statement:

In “The Most Dangerous Game” Connell uses indirect characterization to show that Rainsford is egotistical, principled, and highly skilled.

One way that Rainsford is indirectly characterized is through the conversation he has with Whitney at the beginning on the yacht.  The discussion about the animals shows that he has no regard for their welfare.  He is self-centered and egotistical.

"The best sport in the world," agreed Rainsford.

"For the hunter," amended Whitney. "Not for the jaguar."

"Don't talk rot, Whitney," said Rainsford. "You're a big-game hunter, not a philosopher. Who cares how a jaguar feels?"

Rainsford only cares for his abilities as a hunter.  He is not interested in how animals feel.  The writer does not tell us directly that Rainsford is egotistical, but the conversation is a way of showing us it.  He will get a lesson in how the animal feels on a hunt later on that might give him a lesson in humility.

Next, Rainsford is indirectly characterized as principled through his conversations with Zaroff.  This is a man who is basically evil.  He traps men on his island, hunts them for fun, and kills them with no mercy or conscience.  Rainsford is horrified when he finds out. 

"One does not expect nowadays to find a young man of the educated class … with such a naive, and, if I may say so, mid-Victorian point of view. … I'll wager you'll forget your notions when you go hunting with me. You've a genuine new thrill in store for you, Mr. Rainsford.

Some men might have gone along with Zaroff and thought that hunting people was fun.  Rainsford is not one of them.  Zaroff even suggests than he might.  However, he does not.  He continues to believe that hunting men is wrong, and refuses to hunt with Zaroff. 

However, after he becomes the prey he does kill Zaroff.  He seems to feel no conscience when he kills him, making only a comment about sleeping in the bed.  This little bit of indirect characterization does not mean that he turned unprincipled, it just mean that he is complicated and the affair changed him.

Finally, Rainsford is highly skilled.  We learn this from watching all of the traps he lays for Zaroff during the game.  Even Zaroff is impressed with how time and time again he can come up with more and more clever tricks.

"You've done well, Rainsford," the voice of the general called. "Your Burmese tiger pit has claimed one of my best dogs. Again you score. I think, Mr. Rainsford, I’ll see what you can do against my whole pack….”

Unfortunately for Rainsford, Zaroff seems familiar with most of his tricks.  They fail to kill Zaroff.  One of them does kill Ivan though, a knife tied to a sapling that snaps back and shoots at him.  This makes Zaroff more vulnerable.  Each of these incidents is indirect characterization, showing us how clever Rainsford is and how he reacts to danger, as well as what skills he has.

Indirect characterization is useful for authors in letting us know about characters without telling us outright.  Authors use a mix of direct and indirect characterization to fully develop their character and create well-rounded characters that readers can really picture.

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The Most Dangerous Game

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