Characterization In The Most Dangerous Game

What type of characterization is used in Richard Connell's "The Most Dangerous Game"?

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Like most pieces of good literature, "The Most Dangerous Game" uses a combination of direct and indirect characterization to develop Rainsford and Zaroff. In this particular story, Connell is not shy about using direct characterization. That makes sense, as "The Most Dangerous Game" is a short story and Connell has a limited amount of page space to create these characters. Direct characterization occurs when the writer reveals character traits in a direct manner via the narrator or another character's comments. We see the latter option at the beginning of the story when Whitney flatly states that Rainsford has good eyesight. Another good example of direct characterization occurs when Rainsford meets General Zaroff and the narrator directly tells us about Zaroff.

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

Indirect characterization is more subtle, and it requires readers to deduce traits of a character through how that character acts, speaks, appears, and so on. The following quote from Zaroff can be used to illustrate indirect characterization within the story.

Life is for the strong, to be lived by the strong, and if need be, taken by the strong. The weak of the world were put here to give the strong pleasure. I am strong. Why should I not use my gift? If I wish to hunt, why should I not?

Based on this quote alone, a reader can infer that Zaroff is somewhat opinionated as well as entitled. He is used to getting his way and doing what he wants, and he doesn't really care who he hurts in the process. Readers will see additional evidence of this through Zaroff's intentional capturing of humans for the sole purpose of hunting them down for sport. He simply doesn't have strong opinions on the sanctity of human life. As Rainsford and Zaroff battle each other, readers can also infer that both men are creative, cunning, bold, and tough, and that is what makes their cat-and-mouse game so thrilling to read. They truly are evenly matched opponents.

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There are type types of characterizations in literature: direct and indirect characterizations. With direct characterizations, an author provides the reader with a very specific description of a character. For example, a character's physical description is provide by stating that the character is "tall with an athletic build." This offers a very specific mental image for the reader. Internally, a character can be described directly through distinct characterizations: "she was a kind person, willing to do anything for anyone." Readers know exactly the kind of person the character described is like. 

Indirect characterizations, on the other hand, require the reader to make inferences (educated guesses) about the covert characteristics offered. Here, readers must make inferences about the character based upon dialogue, actions, and private thoughts. For example, a character may be defined through his or her actions: "she looked around prior to taking the twenty dollar bill out of her father's wallet." Here, a reader would infer that the character is not trustworthy. Richard Connell uses both direct and indirect characterizations in his short story "The Most Dangerous Game." 

Indirect Characterization

"Rainsford sprang up and moved quickly to the rail." "When he opened his eyes he knew from the position of the sun that it was late in the afternoon." "He examined the ground closely and found what he had hoped to find--the print of hunting boots."

For all of the sentences above, Rainsford can be defined as nimble (quick), intelligent, and knowledgeable. His quick movement to the rail illustrates his nimbleness, while his knowledge of the position of the sun illustrates his intelligence. His expectations that he will find bootprints show his knowledge about hunting or tracking. 

Direct Characterization

"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." "Ivan is an incredibly strong fellow," remarked the general, "but he has the misfortune to be deaf and dumb. A simple fellow, but, I'm afraid, like all his race, a bit of a savage."

Here, the reader has no question about Ivan. He is a huge, muscular man with a very long black beard. Zaroff openly describes him as strong, deaf (unable to hear), and dumb (mute--unable to speak). 

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