In "The Most Dangerous Game," how does the author create suspense and inspire fear in the reader?

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readerofbooks eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Suspense and fear are built into the fabric of the story from the beginning.  As the story starts, Rainsford asks about the mysterious island off to the distance.  Whitney says that even the most experienced sailors have a curious dread of the place.  This immediately sets an ominous tone and there is even a feeling that Rainsford will wind up there. 

As the story progresses, so does the dread of the island. Whitney comments that not even cannibals would live in such a forsaken place.  Here is the quote:

Even cannibals wouldn't live in such a God-forsaken place. But it's gotten into sailor lore, somehow. Didn't you notice that the crew's nerves seemed a bit jumpy today?"

Eventually, Rainsford falls off the boat and ends up on the island.  When this happens, he meets General Zaroff, who is an uneasy combination of sophistication and eeriness. This odd combination creates suspense and fear, as it is implied that there is much more than meets the eye when it comes to Zaroff.  

He was finding the general a most thoughtful and affable host, a true cosmopolite. But there was one small trait of .the general's that made Rainsford uncomfortable. Whenever he looked up from his plate he found the general studying him, appraising him narrowly.

When Zaroff's true colors emerge, the reader can clearly see that Zaroff is insane. As the contest begins between Zaroff and Rainsford, there is suspense. Who will win?  Zaroff has the clear advantage, and Rainsford is on the run. This point also creates fear. This fear persists until the end, where it is resolved in Rainsford's defeat of Zaroff. 



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The Most Dangerous Game

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