"The Most Dangerous Game" is full of suspenseful moments. In fact, Richard Connell is a master in making this story about the hunter and the hunted a page-turner. Suspense obviously is that quality that makes the reader want to read on. It can be created in many ways. One way is delaying the information given to the reader. For instance, General Zaroff tells Rainsford over a perfectly civilized dinner that he is bored with hunting the traditional prey and has found another type of animal to hunt that poses a greater challenge than any he has hunted before. The reader guesses that the animal who can reason and present a challenge for Zaroff is human, but Connell delays giving the reader this information. We are shown Rainsford slowly coming to the same the conclusion that the reader has already guessed. We read on to see if we are right and if Rainsford will become Zaroff's prey.
During the hunt, suspense is often created as we read to see if any of Rainsford's traps will work and if Rainsford will succeed in eluding Zaroff and Ivan. Since for most of the story we know only what Rainsford is thinking (third person limited point of view), we do not know if Zaroff will fall for such traps as the Burmese tiger pit or the Ugandan knife trick. The author keeps us interested by showing us Rainsford's fear, hope, and anticipation.
There are lots of places in the story where you can see suspense.
Some examples are:
- When Sanger Rainsford has tried to make all sorts of confusing tracks and has then climbed a tree, trying to make no marks on it. He is lying on the branch and General Zaroff comes and his eyes move up the tree toward the very branch where Rainsford is... This scenario continues to be suspensful after Zaroff starts to walk away -- is he just toying with Rainsford?
- When Rainsford leaps out into the ocean. Is he jumping out to his death? Will Zaroff be cheated of his prey because Rainsford is just commiting suicide? This could be the end of the story -- Rainsford decides he'd rather die than give Zaroff the satisfaction of killing him.
Author Richard Connell certainly creates a mood of suspense that continues throughout his famed short story, "The Most Dangerous Game." The very first paragraphs of the story help to create this mood while hunter Sanger Rainsford is still sailing on his yacht. His friend, Whitney, tells of the mysterious island.
"OFF THERE to the right--somewhere--is a large island," said Whitney." It's rather a mystery--"
"What island is it?" Rainsford asked.
"The old charts call it `Ship-Trap Island,"' Whitney replied." A suggestive name, isn't it? Sailors have a curious dread of the place. I don't know why. Some superstition--"
Other examples include when
- Rainsford hears gunshots on what is supposed to be an uninhabited island.
- He swims ashore (after falling off his yacht) and encounters a huge mansion in the middle of nowhere.
- After meeting the Cossack general, Zaroff, he is told of the "most dangerous game" of them all. We only find out later that it is human game. The reader is left to wonder what plans Zaroff has for his "guest."
- Once Zaroff begins to hunt Rainsford, the author lets the reader wonder what the outcome will be.
- At the end, he has yet another twist in store after it appears Rainsford has escaped.
All of these examples add up to a suspenseful tale of adventure that remains one of the most popular of all American short stories.