What is the mood in "The Most Dangerous Game"?
First to clarify the difference between tone and mood. The tone is the author's attitude, stated or implied, toward a subject.
The mood is the feeling of the characters and the emotions of the reader. They include suspense, anxiety, fear, terror.
#1 - Falling off the yacht
"He struggled up to the surface and tried to cry out, but the wash from the speeding yacht slapped him in the face and the salt water in his open mouth made him gag and strangle."
#2 - When he is swimming toward the shore he hears:
"Rainsford heard a sound. It came out of the darkness, a high screaming sound, the sound of an animal in an extremity of anguish and terror."
#3 - When he comes up to the house, opens the door:
"The first thing Rainsford's eyes discerned was the largest man Rainsford had ever seen--a gigantic creature, solidly made and black bearded to the waist. In his hand the man held a long-barreled revolver, and he was pointing it straight at Rainsford's heart."
#4 - When he finds out Zaroff hunts humans:
"My dear fellow," said the general, "there is one that can." "But you can't mean--" gasped Rainsford."
#5 - After a long night of being hunted by Zaroff:
"The general was playing with him! The general was saving him for another day's sport! The Cossack was the cat; he was the mouse. Then it was that Rainsford knew the full meaning of terror."
The mood of this famous story is ominous and suspenseful, primarily because of the setting and plot. Rainsford initially thinks he swims to safety after falling off the yacht, but he arrives on an island with a strangely gothic mansion, complete with a heavy front door and a threatening doorman. Once General Zaroff, who is a disarmingly gracious host, explains the rules of the "game," Rainsford must struggle for his life in a jungle-like forest complete with a "Death Swamp." Although Rainsford is a famous, experienced hunter, he is hardly a match for the general who knows the island well and tracks him unerringly. Although Rainsford has some success, with the hounds and Zaroff's henchman Ivan in pursuit as well, Rainsford must jump off a cliff to escape. To the reader's surprise, after Zaroff's leisurely dinner, Rainsford confronts Zaroff in his bedroom and challenges him. With the ending, Rainsford "had never slept in a better bed," we learn that he did indeed defeat the vicious general who "furnished a repast for the dogs."
Throughout the story the gripping suspense creates a mood that engages the reader and never falters.
Perhaps one of my favorite stories ever, the mood of "The Most Dangerous Game" is, from the very beginning, threatening, to say the least, with the island looming almost like a living breathing beast awaiting Rainsford's arrival. From the point of his arrival and meeting with Zaroff, the mood escalates to one of spellbinding transfixation as Rainsford enters into whirlwind of fear and dread as the hunter becomes the hunted. This is another reason I love this story, the mood doesn't stay fixed; it seems to take on a life of its own moving through the story much like living prey itself, changing instantaneously from one course to another. One minute you are tensed with fear and the next, you are resting in a comfortable bed. There aren't a lot of stories that can do that for a reader. Hope this helps.
The mood is suspenseful, foreboding, and frightening. Rainsford has come upon an island that according to his companion Whitney, "has an evil name among sea-faring men". Rainsford has a brazen attitude of disbelief, but as he finds himself a pawn in General Zaroff's game, hunted like a wild animal, the sense of fear and suspense is heightened at every turn. Zaroff's island and estate turns out to be the location of a terror-filled game, Zaroff created for his amusement, where he hunts the most dangerous and intelligent game anyone could hunt: humans, sea-faring men who are shipwrecked there, with no way out. As Rainsford struggles to outsmart Zaroff and live another day, the suspense is continually rising and falling until the very end.
I would say the mood is zestful. That is to say, the characters are so eager to have adventures, and to learn about new things, that they communicate a kind of zest or eagerness for life through their words and actions. Look at the first two lines, for example:
"OFF THERE to the right--somewhere--is a large island," said Whitney." It's rather a mystery--""What island is it?" Rainsford asked.
Rainsford is so eager to learn about this mystery that he cuts Whitney off. He's surging forward, even though he doesn't know what he's heading for.
Connell was able to use figurative language to establish the tone in The Most Dangerous Game. The tone throughout the story is suspenseful and at times frightening. The island that Rainsford comes upon is “rather a mystery”… and “Sailors have a curious dread of the place…Some superstition”. Rainsford has an unabashed attitude of skepticism, but as he finds himself a pawn in General Zaroff's game, hunted like a wild animal, the reader’s sense of fear and suspense is heightened with every moment. Zaroff's island turns out to be the setting of a horror filled game. A game that Zaroff created for his amusement, where he hunts the most dangerous and intelligent game anyone could hunt: humans with no way out. As Rainsford struggles to outsmart Zaroff and live another day, the suspense is continually rising and falling until the very end.