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The Most Dangerous Game

by Richard Edward Connell
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How important is suspense in "The Most Dangerous Game"?

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The Most Dangerous Game is a short story that features a great deal of foreshadowing and irony. The first scene in the story, in which the protagonist (Rainsford ) and his friend Whitney discuss hunting and in which Rainsford posits that animals "have no understanding" and therefore feel...

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The Most Dangerous Game is a short story that features a great deal of foreshadowing and irony. The first scene in the story, in which the protagonist (Rainsford) and his friend Whitney discuss hunting and in which Rainsford posits that animals "have no understanding" and therefore feel nothing, is filled with foreshadowing.

After their boat sinks and Rainsford finds himself on a mysterious island, more foreshadowing occurs in the form of Count Zaroff, the antagonist, and his pack of dogs. The dogs help Zaroff hunt, but what is he interested in hunting? Due to the set up, the reader slowly catches on to the fact that there can only be one ultimate animal to hunt: man. The dogs, who will soon be hunting Rainsford, represent situational irony (especially since they are "man's best friend").

Suspense is important in this story because once the reader becomes aware that Rainsford will be the quarry, each scene unfolds on the premise that he could be captured, but in each subsequent scene, he finds a clever way to outwit Zaroff. As he barely escapes capture, the hounds baying in the background, Rainsford's fate is still not clear. It is impossible to tell if he will survive, as his chances seem limited given that Zaroff is a skilled hunter who has an assistant, dogs, and plenty of food and water. Does he deserve to live, given all the animals he has hunted and killed?

Suspense drives much of the plot in The Most Dangerous Game. Without suspense, the story would not move forward, since the story is a very simple one. Due to the nature of the subject and the implicit assumption that experienced hunters usually capture their prey—and Rainsford has been such a hunter—it seems as though his fate should be to die at the hands of Zaroff. Yet, the reader can't help but root for him.

The suspense is not resolved till the final act, when Rainsford shows up inside the castle and the evil Zaroff is foiled. Therefore, throughout all of the story after the exposition, suspense is a key element.

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Suspense is absolutely an integral part of the story-telling in The Most Dangerous Game. In this uniquely suspenseful novel, readers are introduced to a world in which all of the adrenaline, terror, rapid-thoughts, primal self preservation, and fast decision making that encompasses the life of a prey animal is now part of the experience of the human-prey character. Rainsford must be constantly looking over his shoulder, and as readers are absorbed into the novel, they too, can feel the impending sense of doom that Rainsford feels as he fights for his life. As Rainsford must face life-threatening challenge after life-threatening challenge, the atmosphere of suspense continues to build. The author brilliantly uses moments of particular suspense to keep readers on the edge of their seats as Rainsford experiences several near-death moments.

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Connell's use of suspense keeps the reader interested and excited throughout the story as they wonder whether Rainsford will survive the dangerous game. At the beginning of the story, Connell creates suspense when Rainsford accidentally falls into the sea. He is forced to swim towards the enigmatic, foreboding island in the dark. After Rainsford discovers that Zaroff will be hunting him for three days throughout Ship-Trap Island, the reader sympathizes with Rainsford's dire situation and is filled with excitement, anxiety, and tension.

During the game, there are numerous suspenseful moments when the reader believes that either Rainsford will be murdered or Zaroff will die. At the beginning of the game, Connell creates suspense while Rainsford is hiding in the tree and Zaroff slowly approaches before suddenly turning back. Other suspenseful moments include Rainsford watching as Zaroff narrowly survives the Malay mancatcher and the Burmese tiger pit. Connell also creates suspense towards the end of the game when Zaroff is closing in on Rainsford. Rainsford is forced to jump into the sea in order to survive. The short story even has a suspenseful ending—when Rainsford challenges Zaroff to a fight to the death. Overall, Connell's use of suspense drives the plot while keeping the reader interested and excited throughout the story.

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Suspense is key to the impact the story makes to the reader. The title itself says that suspense should ensue because this "game" is a dangerous one. The reader is kept on the edge of his or her seat as Rainsford tried to elude General Zaroff in order to keep his life. It is very suspenseful when Rainsford is hiding in the tree after making what he thought was an impossible trail to follow and Zaroff is standing just below him. It is suspenseful as the chase is underway when Rainsford sets the Malay trap that kills Ivan. Finally when Rainsford leaps off the cliff to what we think is his death and then he appears in Zaroff bedroom we are suspended wondering what Rainsford's final move will be.

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