What do these things in "Most Dangerous Game" symbolize?What do the jungle, the island, the darkness, and the color red mean in the story, and what do they symbolise?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Richard Connell's suspenseful and suprising short story "The Most Dangerous Game" is, indeed, replete with symbolism.  Ironically, the jaguar about which Sanger Rainsford speaks so superciliously becomes a symbol of Rainsford himself as he, too, is hunted as "game" and becomes what he calls "an animal at bay" in the game of hunting man. 

When Rainsford falls overboard into the "blood-warm water of the Caribbean Sea," he must swim through the darkness of his ignorance and unawareness of the Darwinian world which he will enter on the island.  This island, called Ship-Trap, has what Rainsford's companion Whitney calls "an evil name among searfaring men."  In fact, Whitney asks Rainsford if he does not feel anything as evil is tangible, the sailors say.

After Rainsford is taken captive by Ivan and then released for General Zaroff to hunt, he becomes a beast of prey in the dangerous, Darwinian jungle where only the smarter and stronger survive.  It is in the jungle that the "most dangerous game" is played, and Sanger Rainsford learns "the full meaning of terror."  Indeed, this jungle is the testing ground of Rainsford and Zaroff where Rainsford learns "how an animal at bay feels."  With its Death Swamp, it is where life is a continual red/bloody struggle in a dangerous wilderness with quicksand, rocky cliffs, fallen trees, mud and sand, and wild seas.

Finally, after he escapes from Zaroff and Ivan in the jungle by diving into the sea, and then appears in Zaroff's bedroom, Rainsford tells Zaroff "I am still a beast at bay," as he points a sword at the general.  Rainsford wins the dangerous game of survival of the fittest and feels victorious: "He had never slept in a better bed Rainsford decided."

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The Most Dangerous Game

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