What are some ways that the author makes the reader aware of his characters' personalities, beliefs, and appearances in "The Most Dangerous Game"?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Richard Connell, author of "The Most Dangerous Game," develops his characters with the classic methods of indirect characterization:

  1. through a physical description of characters
  2. through the characters' actions
  3. through the characters' thoughts, feelings, and speeches
  4. through the comments and reactions of other characters

Physical descriptions

  • Ivan is described as having a "snarl of beard two small eyes"; he is dressed in a black uniform, trimmed with lamb fur.  He is a Cossack who has had his tongue cut out.
  • General Zaroff is also a Cossack, a fierce and courageous breed of Russia.  He possesses "an original, almost bizarre quality" to his face. Tall and in his fifties at least, the general's face is a bright white, his eyebrows are thick and his military mustache are as black as his eyebrows. Like Ivan, he has black eyes--later described as "dead, black eyes," but they are very bright. Possessing high cheek bones,

a sharp-cut nose, a spare, dark face, the face of a man used to giving orders, the face of an aristoract.

  • Little is provided in the way of a physical description for Sanger Rainsford.  Obviously, he is in fairly good physical description as he leaps and balances on the ship's railing, and he is capable of swimming for an "endless time [as] he fought the sea."

The characters' actions

  • General Zaroff acts with sang-froid, speaking of his having killed so many animals that it is hard to count. While he is trailing Rainsford, he stops and allows him to live the first day. "The general was saving him for another day's sport!"  The general is a great hunter, as he "follows the trail with the sureness of a bloodhound...."  So intent is he that nothing escapes his black eyes.  When he just touches the trap Rainsford has made, he jumps back and emits a "mocking laugh."  Later, he returns after nursing his shoulder with the baying dogs so that Rainsford "lives a year in a minute."  That evening Zaroff shrugs his shoulder and returns to his dinner. When Rainsford appears, Zaroff compliments him, "You have won the game."
  • Rainsford learns what it feels like to be "an animal at bay."  He digs frantically to create a trap, only to hear a sharp scream of pain and the voice of the general thanking Rainsford for "a most amusing evening."  The next day he hears the hounds and shinnies up a tree, trying to keep his nerve. However, Rainsford manages to climb into the chateau and confront his enemy.  And, after vanguishing this enemy, Rainsford thinks that he had never slept in such a wonderful bed.

The characters' words and the comments of others

  • The conversation between Rainsford and Whitney at the opening of the story reveals Rainsford's attitude toward hunting.  So, when Rainsford undergoes his experience as prey, he certainly changes his mind.  That he is a challenge to Zaroff becomes apparent as Zaroff must compliment him. He remains the predator even though for a while he is the prey. His earlier repugance of Zaroff's dangerous game changes as he conquers his foe.
  • Likewise, Zaroff's conversation with Rainsford is indicative of his cold, calculating nature. He criticizes Puritan and mid-Victorian points of view, and he defends himself, saying that he "treats visitors with consideration."  Later, on the hunt, there is little conversation, only congratulations to Rainsford.

 

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