How does the setting shape characters’ actions in "The Most Dangerous Game"?

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Rainsford uses the features of the island to evade Zaroff and win the game.

General Zaroff has his own Caribbean island where he is the master of his domain.  He makes the rules, and does not need to follow society’s. Unfortunately, when Sanger Rainsford falls of the yacht and swims to the island, he has to follow Zaroff’s too.

Setting influences characters.  If these two characters had not been on this particular island, they would never have been playing this game.  Zaroff would not have been able to have his hunt anywhere else.

Zaroff chose the island because it was well-suited to the purpose.  It is isolated, and near a reef.  He can trap ships here so that he has plenty of prisoners to use in his game.

The general chuckled. "They indicate a channel," he said, "where there's none; giant rocks with razor edges crouch like a sea monster with wide-open jaws. They can crush a ship as easily as I crush this nut."

The island is perfect for hunting.  It is a jungle, full of swamps and quicksand, with tall cliffs and rocky shores.  The terrain is difficult to pass through if you do not know it well or are not an experienced hunter or jungle expert.

Rainsford also makes his decision about how to evade and fight Zaroff based on the lay of the land on the island.  Unlike Zaroff, he has to learn the terrain as he goes along.  He uses the island's difficult terrain to his advantage, deciding where to build his tiger pit in soft ground, for example.

He knew his pursuer was coming; he heard the padding sound of feet on the soft earth, and the night breeze brought him the perfume of the general's cigarette. It seemed to Rainsford that the general was coming with unusual swiftness…

Rainsford is an experienced hunter, and he uses everything he knows about hunting to use the terrain of the island, from the trees to the swamp.  He makes a weapon out of a young sapling that kills Ivan.  Even though he was hoping it would kill Zaroff, this is still a huge win.

Rainsford also uses the fact that the chateau can be accessed by swimming.  Zaroff is not expecting this, and Rainsford is able to win the game based on it.

"Rainsford!" screamed the general. "How in God's name did you get here?"


"Swam," said Rainsford. "I found it quicker than walking through the jungle."

The general sucked in his breath and smiled. "I congratulate you," he said. "You have won the game."

In the end, Rainsford used everything he learns about the island to his advantage, even though he had to discover it along the way.  Zaroff already knew.  His advantage was “home court” advantage. 

Characters always exist within a setting.  No story takes place in a vacuum.  In this story, the unique features of the island make the story’s plot possible.  Zaroff never could have hunted humans in a more traditional environment.  Rainsford used the environment throughout the story to “win” the game.

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