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The Most Dangerous Game

by Richard Edward Connell

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In "The Most Dangerous Game," what is the verbal irony in the title?

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Richard Connel's short story "The Most Dangerous Game" is about a deadly hunt on a remote island between two men. Sanger Rainsford, a big game hunter from America, is the protagonist and General Zaroff, a Cossack military officer, the antagonist. Rainsford meets Zaroff when he accidentally falls off his yacht while passing Zaroff's island.

The title uses verbal irony to describe what happens in the story. Verbal irony is when a writer says one thing, but really means something different. Initially, the reader may think Connel's title refers to a real game that for some reason has become perilous.

In fact, the title has a double meaning. On one hand, it does portray a game (defined as something played) which has turned deadly. Zaroff reveals to Rainsford that, because he's grown bored with hunting animals, he now hunts men on his remote island and suggests Rainsford join him. When Rainsford refuses, the General sets his guest loose on the island and proceeds to hunt him down. Zaroff describes the "game":

"You'll find this game worth playing," the general said enthusiastically. "Your brain against mine. Your woodcraft against mine. Your strength and stamina against mine. Outdoor chess! And the stake is not without value, eh?" 

On the other hand, game can also be defined as an animal that is being hunted. In this case, Rainsford becomes the game. He is ultimately dangerous because he not only kills Zaroff's servant, his best dog, but in the end, the general himself when they duel in Zaroff's bedroom in the finale of the story.

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