What purpose does Whitney serve in "The Most Dangerous Game" by Richard Connell?

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andrewnightingale eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Whitney immediately sets the tone and mood of the story from the outset. Both the reader and Whitney's guest, Sanger Rainsford, are immediately intrigued when he utters the following:

"Off there to the right--somewhere--is a large island," said Whitney." It's rather a mystery--"

His second statement about the suggestive name of the island, as well as his references to 'curious dread' and 'superstition' emphasises the mysterious atmosphere and creates tension. The conversation is definitely not light and convivial but has a somber, dark quality.

Not only does Whitney break the tension in his remark about Sanger Rainsford's hunting skill, but he also acts as a secondary narrator, giving us insight into the character of the protagonist. The light banter continues and we learn, through Whitney's subtle prodding, what Rainsford's sentiments are about the hunter and his prey. It becomes clear that Rainsford has no sympathy for the animals he mercilessly hunts down and kills. In this way, the reader is also primed for some expectation that Rainsford is about to be taught a lesson.

In the conversation, Whitney also introduces a major theme in the story - fear. Rainsford's discomfort with regard to the topic is evident and he quickly turns attention back to the island. Whitney adds a more ominous tone to what he had said previously by mentioning that the island has a bad reputation. His suggestion about the nervousness of his crew and especially his references to the place being God-forsaken and that even the tough captain could sense the malice emanating from the island, create a sense of foreboding.

Whitney draws both the reader and Rainsford deeper into the mystery by suggesting that he himself felt "a mental chill; a sort of sudden dread." This further emphasises the ominous and foreboding mood mentioned earlier. Rainsford, the realist, dismisses this as superstition and again, the reader has a sense of expectation - Rainsford is, somehow, going to experience some kind of regret for his dismissive sentiment.  

Before leaving for bed, Whitney leaves Rainsford with a few final sentiments to consider:

But sometimes I think sailors have an extra sense that tells them when they are in danger. Sometimes I think evil is a tangible thing--with wave lengths, just as sound and light have. An evil place can, so to speak, broadcast vibrations of evil. Anyhow, I'm glad we're getting out of this zone.

The emphasis on evil creates an awareness in the reader that some unfortunate event or events are about to transpire. Furthermore, he introduces irony for we later discover that, although they get out of the zone, Rainsford gets caught in it.

Whitney, as it were, has set the table and we, the readers, are ready to tuck in.

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Nearly all the action in "The Most Dangerous Game" by Richard Connell takes place on the island known as Ship-Trap island. That is where Sanger Rainsford meets General Zaroff and becomes Zaroff's prey.

Whitney never sets foot on the island. but without him Rainsford would never have been there. Whitney is the captain of a ship which is traveling one night through the Caribbean, and Rainsford is his distinguished passenger. Whitney also tells Rainsford all about the island:

"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--"

Whitney prepares us, the readers, for something mysterious and ominous. Connell uses Whitney to provide foreshadowing for us and for Rainsford. 

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The Most Dangerous Game

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