How serious can we get about this story?Just wondering what all of you thought about something. There are so many questions about conflict and theme in the Most Dangerous Game. I always use it in...

How serious can we get about this story?

Just wondering what all of you thought about something. There are so many questions about conflict and theme in the Most Dangerous Game. I always use it in my Short Story unit to introduce the idea of escape fiction as opposed to interpretive fiction. I'm pretty sure it is a purely an external man vs man story. To actually take it seriously and examine Zaroff, the animal rights theme and other conflicts seems upsurd to me. Perhaps at a grade six level one might consider these but the story does not warrant them. It’s kind of like asking why Godzilla was so damn angry all the time. Did he have issues with his father? Did he have conflicting feelings about nuclear war? Godzilla is a sea-monster, he's angry, that's it.!……I’d love to hear what you guys think.

Asked on by tthakkar

11 Answers

cybil's profile pic

cybil | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted on

I don't know that I'd call it an animal-rights story, but I do think a man vs. self conflict is inherent in Rainsford when he must reconsider his position as a hunter. From his comment, "Who cares how a jaguar feels?" near the opening of the story to "Rainsford knew now how an animal at bay feels," he has been forced to come to grips with a position he had not previously even thought possible. Will he ever hunt again? My freshmen students often ask this question. I don't know. But I do think that he has a better understanding of what it means to fight for survival. The main difference, of course, between Rainsford and the jaguar is the man uses his reason to succeed. Does that mean he's superior and therefore has the right to hunt the animal? That, I believe, is Zaroff's justification for his game because he sees himself as superior to all others. Only Rainsford is a worthy opponent, he thinks, and then the great hunter turns out to be a disappointment until the great surprise at the end. It's one of my favorite stories to teach freshmen.

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Stories like "The Most Dangerous Game" used to appear by the thousands in "slick" popular magazines like Collier's, The Saturday Evening Post, Argosy, Esquire, and in the many pulp magazines that featured adventure tales for men. The freelance writers who cranked them out even had plotting machines that would give them characters, settings, conflicts, and other elements to work with. "The Most Dangerous Game" just happens to be a superior example of this kind of commercial writiing. It is probably assigned in a lot of high school English courses because it is sure to appeal to young boys--and hopefully get more boys interested in reading. Richard Connell came up with a good idea for an "adventure yarn" and did a slick professional job of developing it. The magazine market for commercial fiction of this genre began to dry up with the advent of television after World War II, but a movie producer could still make a good adaptation of this story if he could get the film rights. It was made into a movie in 1932 which is available on DVD.

sagetrieb's profile pic

sagetrieb | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted on

I love the idea of taking the story seriously and investigating it on its own turns.  Perrine is one of those anthologists, I think, who include the story in a rather condescending way to show by way of contrast what is good lit and what is not. Lots of critics have studied ways to break down this divide between "high culture" literature (which requires interpretations) vs. popular literature (which allows us to "escape" and does not require interpretation).  Your insight to the text--the themes you see it offering--gives it the dignity and respect it is due.  As teachers, I think we are responsible for teaching students to read all printed words because none, just none, is transparent in their meaning and in their relationship to our world and readers.  Congrats to you for teaching the story in this way.

engtchr5's profile pic

engtchr5 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted on

Oh good grief. You guys are killing me here. Does anyone else see the irony in a discussion group solely based upon the notion that something doesn't deserve a lot of discussion?

Granted, I've fallen into the pit myself (no pun intended, MDG fans), but at least I pointed out the irony first. Here's the thing: Nobody cares about the internal conflicts of the characters in this story. Performing a head-shrink on these characters is about as useless as attaching a screen door to a submarine. The big VS. in this piece of lit. is one of two things -- Man vs. Nature or Man vs. other Man. You could even do both. There's my two cents; take it or leave it, folks.

auntlori's profile pic

Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I actually quite agree with mwestwood but wasn't as clear as I could have been.  These are, indeed, great stories in which we can reflect upon and examine human nature at its grandest and most depraved and everything in between; and to that extent I take them very seriously.  I'm just suggesting that those who try to make this and similar stories about things that don't really matter--such as animal rights or gender bias or whatever else is "popular" today--go too far and thereby diminish the work. They take their seriousness to an almost ridiculous level. 

auntlori's profile pic

Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Nothing is more annoying to me than trying to overlay modern sensibilities (environment, conservation, gender, etc.) over something clearly intended to be a great read and a great display of literary technique.  We (English teachers) are notorious for always expecting to find something extraordinarily "deep" in works like this.  Instead, I find this a perfect piece of literature to use in reviewing the literary conventions of fiction and a great review especially of conflict.  For me, it's a jumping off point for discussion and review--nothing more.

mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

In complete agreement with post #8, it is amazing that life must always be reinterpreted in contemporary euphemisms and invented terms so often.  Human nature is human nature, and Connell's story is a reaffirmation of the truth that there is yet a violent, savage side to man's nature in even the civilized.  "The Most Dangerous Game" is a great story to which one can allude when discussing this theme in other works such as William Golding's Lord of the Flies or even Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery."

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Jamie Wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted on

HA!  Best laugh I've had all day.  Godzilla, indeed.  (Maybe he had the same problem Grendel had with the Geats...too much dang noise. Turn that Japanese techno-crap down, can't a lizard get some shut eye??) 

I too think it's ridiculous to look at this as an animal-rights story.  I think anyone who does takes it far too seriously.  Still, it's bound to get students talking and might loosen them up for something more meaty (if you will). 

Anyone willing to take the other side? 

accessteacher's profile pic

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

Posted on

I do agree with #4 in that I think it is worth thinking about how Rainsford is going to be changed through his experiences. I think it is a very valid question to ask if Rainsford will ever actually hunt again. My own impression is that he will, but he will never take it for granted in the arrogant kind of way that he clearly shows at the beginning of the story.

ask996's profile pic

ask996 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted on

Thank you accessteacher. I agree. Rainsford has been changed with regard to how he thinks about hunting. He is, however, a hunter by trade and nature, and there was really nothing in the story to indicate that he would change that.

User Comments

alogue's profile pic

alogue | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

I agree that other than the simple Man Vs Man for a 6th grade class may be too in depth. However, for my 8th grade class we delve in to the more interpretative range of the Man Vs Society and what is considered right and wrong. Using this story we can then pull in questions on ethics and tie it into a whole other unit on morality and such.