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

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Figurative language is a very wide ranging categorization. It includes a great number of techniques, including but not limited to, metaphor and simile, personification, imagery, etc. If done effectively, it can make a story come alive in the imagination of its readers.

In this answer, I will be mainly focusing on Richard Connell's use of imagery. "The Most Dangerous Game" is a work that channels the senses, using rich and evocative descriptions to make its setting and characters come alive. It can achieve this effect through the use of metaphor and simile. For example, consider the image Connell constructs out of the following sentence:

The lights of the yacht became faint and ever-vanishing fireflies; then they were blotted out entirely by the night.

In this metaphor, Connell creates an image of a yacht vanishing in the distance, leaving Rainsford (who has fallen overboard) further and further behind. The metaphor makes this imagery all the more memorable and vivid in readers' imaginations.

This imagery can also be conveyed through the use of rich description. Connell does not simply say that Zaroff lives in a large, imposing mansion, he describes it in detail:

But as he forged along he saw to his great astonishment that all the lights were in one enormous building—a lofty structure with pointed towers plunging upward into the gloom. His eyes made out the shadowy outlines of a palatial chateau; it was set on a high bluff, and on three sides of it cliffs dived down to where the sea licked greedy lips in the shadows.

Note, first of all, that this passage does end with the use of personification, but even before we come to this image of the sea licking its lips, we find a startlingly vivid description of the chateau, which provides it with a foreboding, sinister feel. Similarly descriptive introductions are given for the characters of Zaroff and Ivan.

Consider Connell's description of Zaroff, in all its vivid detail:

Rainsford's first impression was that the man was singularly handsome; his second was that there was an original, almost bizarre quality about the general's face. He was a tall man past middle age, for his hair was a vivid white; but his thick eyebrows and pointed military mustache were as black as the night from which Rainsford had come. His eyes, too, were black and very bright. He had high cheekbones, a sharpcut nose, a spare, dark face—the face of a man used to giving orders, the face of an aristocrat.

Again, the purpose here is to create a visual impression of the character of Zaroff (who is furthermore contrasted by his servant Ivan, the mute giant who embodies physical intimidation). Through the use of such rich description, these characters feel lifelike, and can potentially come alive in readers' imaginations.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on November 8, 2019
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Foreshadowing is a literary device, which gives the reader a hint about what will happen later on in the story. Connell foreshadows Rainsford's subsequent captivity on the island through Whitney's ominous comments regarding the island at beginning of the story. Whitney tells Rainsford,

"The old charts call it`Ship-Trap Island'...A suggestive name, isn't it? Sailors have a curious dread of the place. I don't know why. Some superstition--" (Connell, 1).

The name and description of the island foreshadow Rainsford's upcoming battle for survival. The reader realizes that something is not quite right with the island and can surmise that it will serve a specific purpose throughout the story.

Personification is when human characteristics are attributed to ideas, animals, and inanimate objects. Throughout the short story, there are several examples of Connell's use of personification. Connell personifies the night by writing, "trying to peer through the dank tropical night that was palpable as it pressed its thick warm blackness in upon the yacht" (1). The night cannot 'press' its blackness on anything. Again, Connell utilizes personification by writing, "giant rocks with razor edges crouch like a sea monster with wide-open jaws" (9).

A simile is a figure of speech that compares two things using the words "like" or "as." Connell utilizes similes throughout the short story by writing, "The sea was as flat as a plate-glass window" (2). Another example of a simile is when Connell writes, "Rainsford's impulse was to hurl himself down like a panther..." (12)

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Figurative language is essentially comparison; the idea is to give the reader a better grasp on something by giving it a common point of reference. Comparing a woman to a summer's day, for example. In "The Most Dangerous Game," there are small examples of figurative language, but Richard Connell keeps mostly to a clear and simple prose. When Rainsford comments on the very dark, moonless night:

"Ugh! It's like moist black velvet."

...like trying to see through a blanket.

Another couple of examples come from Zaroff; he is a hard, violent man, but is also of very refined tastes and considers himself a superior gentleman. Here is Zaroff's comment on what he feels is Rainsford's old-fashioned views:

"It's like finding a snuffbox in a limousine."

Here is his comment on the sharp rocks that destroy ships which fall into the channel:

"...giant rocks with razor edges crouch like a sea monster with wide-open jaws. They can crush a ship as easily as I crush this nut."
(Connell, "The Most Dangerous Game," classicreader.com)

Here, the violence of his last simile shows how little he cares about human life, and how he believes his actions to be moral based on his personal philosophies. However, the story doesn't need to rely on figurative language to be engaging; the plot itself, plus the straightforward description of Rainsford's inner thoughts, give the story suspense without excess prose.

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