In The Most Dangerous Game, how is the conflict man vs man sharply differentiated good and evil?

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Lynn Ramsson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The answer to this question leans heavily on the matter of characterization. In "The Most Dangerous Game," Rainsford is characterized as the good guy, and he engages in a man-to-man conflict with Zaroff, who is characterized as the bad guy. The tension between good and evil is heightened when the conflict becomes a fight to the death between the two men.

Even at the start of the short story, Rainsford is characterized as resourceful and capable. For example, he relies only on himself when he goes overboard: "A certain coolheadedness had come to him; it was not the first time he had been in a tight place." When he lands on shore, he sleeps deeply, despite hearing eerie screams and the sound of gunshot; when he wakes up, he looks around "cheerfully." This resilience is the mark of a hero.

Zaroff is characterized through Rainsford when the reader first meets him. Among other physical characteristics, Zaroff "had high cheekbones, a sharpcut nose, a spare, dark face—the face of a man used to giving orders, the face of an aristocrat." From the start, Rainsford's impressions indicate to the reader that Zaroff is not like "us," which is one way to characterize a villain, and Zaroff looks like he prefers to be in charge, unlike the likable hero of Rainsford.

So, in this story, the man versus man conflict here is enhanced by tension between the hero and the villain, Richard Connell's representatives of good and evil.

namurchi eNotes educator| Certified Educator

By definition, man v. man involves two human beings as opposed to man v. himself or man v. nature.  For example, a man's struggle with his own feelings would constitue man v. himself, a man's struggle with a jaguar or tornado would illustrate man v. nature, and a mental or physical struggle such as that between Rainsford and General Zaroff in The Most Dangerous Game is man v. man.

Man himself contains both good and evil.  Man is neither purely good nor purely evil.  Therefore a true, pure battle of good and evil cannot exist within the conflict of man v. man.  However, one man may be clearly morally superior to the other, and the reader considers him "good" while the other "evil," but this is subjective.  Most readers will agree that General Zaroff is "evil" and morally corrupt as he hunts humans for sport.  Rainsford is likeable and the character we feel the need to cheer for, making him "good"--if only by default. 

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The Most Dangerous Game

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