What is the setting of the "Most Dangerous Game" by Richard Edward Connell and how does it affect the story's main conflict and ending? 

What is the setting of the "Most Dangerous Game" by Richard Edward Connell and how does it affect the story's main conflict and ending?


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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The setting for most of the action of "The Most Dangerous Game" is an exotic and treacherous place.

The crew and the captain of the ship on which Sanger Rainsford and his friend Whitney travel to Brazil are rather nervous as they pass a mysterious island called Ship-Trap Island. Whitney tells Rainsford that even the "tough-minded old Swedish captain who'd go up to the devil himself and ask for a light" was unnerved by the place, for it brought upon the men a chill, "a sort of dread."

After Whitney retires for the night, Rainsford stays on board, then he hears three shots fired from a gun. When Rainsford jumps upon the rail to get better elevation so he might see, his pipe strikes a rope and he grabs for it. However, he loses his balance and falls into the sea. Remembering the sound of the gunshots, Rainford swims toward them. He swims for what seems an endless time; suddenly then, he hears a high screaming sound, a sound he does not recognize as any particular animal.

Finally, he reaches a shoreline and struggles onto a flat place on the jagged rocks where he collapses in exhaustion. "Dense jungle came down to the very edge of the cliffs." As Rainsford explores the next day, he finds a .22 cartridge and wonders at the hunter who shoots a light gun to tackle what had sounded like big game. Finally, as it grows dark, Rainsford sees a multitude of lights. Thinking they are coming from a village, he soon discovers that they all are emitted by a single palatial chateau set on a high bluff. The other three sides of it reveal cliffs that dive to where the "sea licked greedy lips in shadows."

As Rainsford approaches the chateau, he tells himself he is seeing a mirage., but it is no mirage; once inside Rainsford encounters a huge Cossack and another slimmer man, who introduces himself as General Zaroff. Inside a huge room of "medieval magnificence," Rainsford notices the mounted heads of many large animals that are perfect specimens of their species. 

This bizarre tropical island that lures ships with lights into a false channel where there is only huge rocks with razor edges that can crush any ship provides the general with the "game" that he hunts. The massive anachronistic chateau sitting on a high bluff has an air of unreality and foreboding to it, and the occupants of this chateau are both sinister and formidable. Another eerie sight is that of the guard dogs, who are let out at seven every night. 

Once Rainsford becomes the "game" that Zaroff hunts, he discovers how threatening are the dense woods and tropical jungle of vines and the sheer cliffs that are surrounded by a raging sea. His conflict with Zaroff is the struggle of his life as he is faced with a formidable terrain to cover, vicious hounds, and a superior hunter. Only another accomplished hunter such as Rainsford can compete with Zaroff. Somehow he escapes on the second day as he dives off one of the cliffs to the sea. Then amazingly, on the third night, Rainsford scales the walls of the chateau, having gotten past the vicious hounds. He gains entry in the tower where Zaroff's chambers are and hides behind a curtain until he can duel the Russian and become the victor.

cbots eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"The Most Dangerous Game" is set on an island somewhere in the Caribbean Sea called Ship-Trap Island, an island that has gained notoriety in sailor lore for some ominous reason, as discussed by Rainsford and Whitney in the beginning of the story. We later learn that the island is the home of General Zaroff, a Russian immigrant and avid hunter, who lures boats to the dense jungle island and hunts them for sport. The setting is necessary to the conflict because Rainsford is trapped on the island, and eventually is left with no choice but to hunt with Zaroff. Rainsford uses this setting to his advantage in the hunt, and uses the sheer cliffs surrounding the island to fake his death at the end of the story.

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The Most Dangerous Game

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