What's the conflict in "The Most Dangerous Game" by Richard Connell?

1 Answer | Add Yours

auntlori's profile pic

Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

"The Most Dangerous Game," by Richard Connell, is full of conflict. In literary terms, conflict can be both internal and external, and there are subdivisions within each kind of conflict.

External conflict is perhaps the most obvious tension in this story. External conflict includes man vs. man, man vs. nature, and man vs. society. Obviously General Zaroff and Sanger Rainsford are in direct, man vs. man conflict when they hunt one another. Zaroff and Ivan are also in direct conflict with all the sailors who have "accidentally" shipwrecked on the island. Ivan and Rainsford also have a direct conflict.

A second form of external conflict is man vs. nature. Though we do not ever see it directly in this story, both Zaroff and Rainsford hunt big game animals, and Rainsford has to fight against Zaroff's dogs. As Rainsford tries to escape Zaroff, the island works against him (such as the quicksand), causing another man vs. nature conflict. Shiptrap Island is in a constant conflict with the ships and men who are lured onto the rocks, as well. When Rainsford falls off the boat, he has to fight for his life against the current and the rocks; and when he jumps off a cliff near the end of the story, Rainsford is against forced to battle for his life against the rocks below him.

Finally, Zaroff and Ivan are in an obvious conflict with society. There are many reasons why they live on an isolated, out-of-the-way island, but one of the primary ones is that they are hunting and killing humans for sport. Society does not condone such behaviour, obviously, so there is a conflict. Though Rainsford is forced to defend himself, killing another human being is against society's moral code; therefore, Rainsford is also in conflict with society.

The internal conflict in this story is limited to one character: Rainsford. He is the only one who experiences any self-doubt or has a conflict with his own conscience, and of course this conflict centers around his aversion to hunting and killing Zaroff. In the beginning of the story, Rainsford believes that the hunted deserve to be killed:

The world is made up of two classes--the hunters and the huntees. Luckily, you and I are hunters.

He does change his mind after he becomes the hunted and he does decide to kill, but it is only to save his life. We would like to think that anyone who hunts humans for sport has some sense of internal conflict about it, but clearly Zaroff is unmoved by his own hardened conscience. In fact, when Rainsford realizes what Zaroff intends to do, he says,

"General Zaroff, what you speak of is murder." The general laughed with entire good nature.

Every effective story has conflict; however, this story is replete with example of both internal and external conflicts. 

Sources:

We’ve answered 318,915 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question