Personification In The Most Dangerous Game

What are some examples of personification in "The Most Dangerous Game"?

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kathik eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When we personify something, we give it human characteristics. For example, if I said, "The flower stretched toward the sun's rays," we are giving the flower the characteristic of "stretching," a word normally used for human beings. Personification is a figurative language technique used to make writing more descriptive and interesting.

In "The Most Dangerous Game," author Richard Connell uses personification throughout. On the very first page he uses it to describe the evening heat.

"'Can't see it,' remarked Rainsford, trying to peer through the dank tropical night that was palpable as it pressed its thick warm blackness in upon the yacht" (Connell 1).

The night can't really "press" its blackness. Connell is personifying the night here.

A little later Whitney asks Rainsford if he has noticed that "the crew's nerves seemed a bit jumpy today" (Connell 1). Again, nerves don't really jump. Jumpy is a word we sometimes use to express the state of being nervous.

After Whitney retires to bed, Rainsford is left alone on the deck of the ship. Connell describes the night once again using personification. "The sensuous drowsiness of the night was on him" (Connell 2)  Drowsiness is a human trait he is using for the darkness.

When Rainsford falls overboard and after swimming vigorously for some time reaches the shore, he is happy to hear a particular sound.

"Ten minutes of determined effort brought another sound to his ears--the most welcome he had ever heard--the muttering and growling of the sea breaking on a rocky shore" (Connell 3)

Here Connell describes the sea as "muttering." People mutter, and Connell chooses this particular word to personify the sea.

These are just a few examples of personification in "The Most Dangerous Game." If you read carefully, you will find many more!



literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Personification is the giving of human characteristics to non-human/non-living things. An example of personification is: the wind screams at me. Here, the wind is given the capability to scream at the speaker. Wind cannot scream and, therefore, it is personified.

In Richard Connell's short story, The Most Dangerous Game, there are many examples of personification.

1. "Trying to peer through the dank tropical night that was palpable as it pressed its thick warm blackness in upon the yacht" is an example of personification based upon the fact that the night is pressing itself (its warm thick blackness") on the yacht. Darkness cannot press itself upon something. Therefore, it is personified in the text.

2. "Who cares how a jaguar feels?" "Perhaps the jaguar does," observed Whitney. Here, the jaguar is given the ability to care. This, therefore, is an example of personification based upon the fact that the jaguar is given (or assumed to possess) the ability to care.

3. "A sharp hunger was picking at him." This is another example of personification given that hunger is able to "pick" at Rainsford. Hunger cannot "pick" at someone. Therefore, it is personified by being given the ability to do so.

allie344 | Student

Here are some examples of personification, the definition of which is listed in the above answer, from A Most Dangerous Game. 

1. "The wash from the speeding yacht slapped him in the face"

Obviously a wave cannot truly slap a man across the face but in this case the wave is being given the human attribute of the power to slap with a physical body part.

2. "The muttering and growling of the sea breaking upon the shore"

Not only can the sea not mutter and growl, those are purely human/animal traits, the sea itself cannot actually break as a piece of china or such could.

3. "Night was beginning to settle down on the island."

Night, an intangible object, cannot settle down as could a physical being who can choose a specific place to rest or stay put.

4. "Sleep did not visit Rainsford"

Sleep, an inhuman state of consciousness is being compared to one with the capacity to physically be in the vicinity of another.

emilysue8 | Student

Personification is a type of figurative language in which human qualities are given to non-human entities, such as animals, objects, or concepts. Authors use this literary tool to enliven their writing and represent moods and ideas in easily understood ways. Personification abounds in The Most Dangerous Game. Here are some examples:

1. The first use of personification occurs when Rainsford and Whitney discuss Ship-Trap Island at the beginning of the story. Rainsford tries to peer through the night "as it pressed its thick warm blackness in upon the yacht." In this example, the intangible concept of night is given the human ability to press in upon the yacht. To the reader, this use of personification imbues the darkness with an imposing, spooky quality.

2. When Rainsford tumbles from the yacht into the sea, personification is used in the following way: "Ten minutes of determined effort brought another sound to his ears—the most welcome he had ever heard—the muttering and growling of the sea breaking on a rocky shore." Here, a non-living entity, the sea, is given the human ability to mutter. Personification is used in this instance to position the sea as an angry, frustrated opponent of Rainsford.

3. In Death Swamp, Rainsford encounters a patch of quicksand, which the writer states "sucked at his foot viciously." This, too, is an example of personification, as the inanimate quicksand is described not only as sucking at Rainsford's foot, but as performing this action viciously. Personification is used here to heighten the mood as Rainsford fights his way to safety, encountering increasingly formidable "enemies," such as this personified quicksand.

matthewharvard | Student

Authors use the literary device of personification to give human characteristics to inhuman things, such as objects, natural elements, and animals. In Richard Connell's "The Most Dangerous Game," Connell uses personification, and its opposite, zoomorphism, to blur the line between humans and animals, giving weight to General Zaroff's perspective that men are simply the most elusive prey, and forcing Rainsford to sympathize with the animals he once pursued as a big-game hunter.

Connell's use of personification begins early on, as Rainsford and Whitney debate how human-like an animal can be. Rainsford asks, "Who cares how a jaguar feels?" Whitney retorts, "Perhaps the jaguar does." This exchange not only shows Whitney attributing emotional "feelings" to the jaguar, but it also demonstrates Connell's use of irony, in that Rainsford will soon feel like prey himself.

Connell again heightens the connection between humans and animals, when he uses personification to describe the hounds as "raising their voices as they hit the fresh scent." The hounds have taken on the human quality of voice in their pursuit of Rainsford, and that quality serves to allow Rainsford to know "how an animal at bay feels."

Connell also uses zoomorphism to strengthen the link between Rainsford and the animals he once preyed upon. In fact, Connell describes Rainsford as "like a panther" in his attempts to avoid Zaroff's bullet, when Rainsford himself debated the feelings of the jaguar at the beginning of the story. Rainsford realizes that he is the "mouse" and Zaroff is the "cat" in this game, lending weight to Zaroff's view of humans as animals.

Connell utilizes several similes to further compare Zaroff and Rainsford to animals. He writes that Zaroff "leaped back with the agility of an ape" and that Rainsford began to dig "like some huge prehistoric beaver." By comparing his human characters to animals, Connell pushes the reader toward understanding Zaroff's perspective that humans are another form of game.

Thus, by using personification and zoomorphism, Connell establishes the connection between humans and animals, and allows the reader greater insight into Zaroff's argument. However, Connell's greatest feat may be the sly implication, through attributing animal characteristics to Zaroff, that not only are humans the most dangerous game, but that humans are also the most dangerous predator.

rafaelrodriguez | Student

Personification is a literary device whereby the author uses human-like qualities such as emotion, gesture, and speech to illuminate the portrayal of an animal, concept, or object. Numerous examples of personification are interspersed throughout The Most Dangerous Game.  The following are merely a few such examples:

1. As Rainsford attempts to catch a glimpse of the approaching island, the night was "palpable as it pressed its thick warm blackness in upon the yacht." Here the night is given a description of purposefully drawing in upon Rainsford's boat, as if the night was a sentient being.

2. After Rainsford loses his balance and falls into the ocean, his cries for help are to no avail.  "The cry was pinched off short as the blood-warm waters of the Caribbean Sea dosed over his head."  Notice the Caribbean Sea is described as having warm blood, as if it is alive and trying to overcome Rainsford.

3. While swimming towards the island, in desperation, Rainsford makes out the silhouette of a grand mansion; "On three sides of it cliffs dived down to where the sea licked greedy lips in the shadows." Again, the sea is made to appear as greedy with human lips, grasping for more and more dominion in the form of humans and land.  Also, the cliffs are said to be diving down--a human action.


allisonlangston1 | Student

Personification is a figure of speech where human qualities are given to inanimate objects, ideas, or nature (including animals). In “The Most Dangerous Game,” descriptions of the sea provide good examples of personification.

“Ten minutes of determined effort brought another sound to his ears . . . the muttering and growling of the sea breaking on a rocky shore.”  The author personifies the sea by giving it the ability to speak (as opposed to just making noise when its waves hit shore). This, in turn, suggests that the sea has thoughts or moods. What kind of mood would lead someone to mutter and growl?  How does the sea’s “mood” fit with the overall mood or tone of the scene? 

“His eyes made out the shadowy outlines of a palatial chateau . . . and on three sides of it cliffs dived down to where the sea licked greedy lips in the shadows.”  In this sentence, personification is used twice: (1) the cliffs are described as taking action (diving, which cliffs, as inanimate objects, cannot do), and (2) the sea is described as having “greedy lips” that it is licking. When the sea is described this way, how does it make the reader feel about the situation that the main character is facing?  Does it add intensity or deeper meaning to the main conflict in the story between the protagonist (Rainsford) and the antagonist (General Zaroff)?  When you see personification used in a story, asking questions like these can help you understand what the author is trying to get across to the reader, and will also help you see whether the author does a good job of accomplishing that goal.

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The Most Dangerous Game

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