Comparative essay on "The Most Dangerous Game" and "Hunters in the Snow" and determine which is literary and which is commercial story.

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teacher4321 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One way to separate literary and commercial fiction is to define what is most important in each genre. In literary fiction, the focus is on the style of the writing. The author is most concerned with developing characters and theme through diction, syntax, figurative language, and symbolism. In contrast, commercial fiction's focus is pleasing the reader, so the focus is usually on entertainment, which is created by a surprising and interesting plot and characters that the reader can relate to.

"The Most Dangerous Game" is an intricate story that follows Rainsford, a hunter on a quest for challenging big game, who falls off a yacht and finds himself on an island inhabited by Zaroff, Ivan, and Zaroff's dogs. Eventually, Zaroff challenges Rainsford to a hunt. However, this time Rainsford will be hunted by Zaroff. Rainsford ends up "winning" the hunt, and the story ends with Rainsford going to sleep in Zaroff's bed. "The Most Dangerous Game" deals with complex topics and themes such as the power of fear, the difference between humans and animals, the violence in society, etc. Irony is used throughout the story to further the complexity. For example, it is ironic that Rainsford is looking for a difficult hunt and ends up being hunted. Finally, readers could also research the time period of the story and find out more about the popularity of hunting big game at the time, racism during the time period, and political and social issues of the time, which would give deeper perspective and understanding when reading.

"Hunters in the Snow" is a short story about three hunters who are hunting together in the woods during winter. Frank, Tub, and Kenny are all unique characters. Frank is very straightforward and is in love with his children's babysitter. Tub is overweight and is struggling with being honest about the reasons he overeats. Finally, Kenny is harsh, mean, and impatient. The three find themselves at a farm, and after Kenny shoots a dog, Tub ends up shooting Kenny in the stomach in an act of what Tub thinks is self-defense. This leads the three men to travel to the hospital, which is fifty miles away. However, it is a peculiar ride because Tub and Frank stop to warm up and also stop to eat. They are not acting with any urgency, even though their friend has a gunshot wound. Instead, they are divulging their personal struggles. The story ends with the men continuing their journey to the hospital but unknowingly going in the wrong direction. A main theme in "Hunters in the Snow" is selfishness, as the men are only focused on their personal problems, even after their hunting partner has been shot. The characters are everyday people who are easy to relate to, and their problems are relatable as well.

Both stories have an interesting plot that is entertaining. However, because the language, themes, and style are more complex in "The Most Dangerous Game," I would say that this story is more literary, while "Hunters in the Snow" is more commercial. In addition, the characters in "Hunters in the Snow" are easier to relate to, and the story is easier to read, making it accessible and more enjoyable to more people.

amymc eNotes educator| Certified Educator

First you have to determine your working definitions of literary and commercial.  Generally speaking, most people refer to commercial stories as those that are marketed to a wide group of people.  These stories will have a swift-moving plot, suspense, plot twists, and plenty of action.  Literary stories are consumed by a smaller group of readers who may have a specific interest in the author or in the technique of the story.  These stories, therefore, focus on technique, style, diction, syntax, and other figurative elements to tell the story.  The story may be less plot driven, focus more on character or explore more complex themes and ideas.

Both of the stories you mention deal with the archetypal theme of the hunt, or quest, and with the concept of the human will to survive.  However, they vary in their purpose and appeal to readers.

"The Most Dangerous Game" clearly has plenty of suspense, action and conflict.  What seems to be a lucky rescue from a destroyed boat turns in to a game of survival.  The audience cheers on Rainsford as he ultimately outwits his worthy stalker.  The characters, however, are not deeply developed, and the theme does not move beyond the concept of the hunt and the fight for survival.

"Hunters in the Snow" begins as a three-man outing for deer.  However, deer are never actually shot; instead one of the three is, but the journey here is more psychological than physical.  The will to survive is, for two of the men, more mental. The plot moves much more slowly, focusing on aspects of character such as infidelity, bullying and the struggle with obesity and confidence. 

While a variety of readers will enjoy the thrill of Rainsford's survival, few will actually identify with him.  On the contrary, many readers will identify with the wider concepts mentioned from "Hunters in the Snow."

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The Most Dangerous Game

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