Which kind of conflict dominates in the story The Most Dangerous Game?

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andrewnightingale eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Conflict refers to the struggle a character has either with himself (internal conflict) or with someone or something else (external conflict). The conflict is resolved once the character finds a solution to his or her problem. In an external conflict, the struggle can be between characters (man versus man) or between the character and a natural force (man versus nature).

In "The Most Dangerous Game," the kind of conflict that dominates is external. At the beginning of the story, the protagonist, Sanger Rainsford, first struggles against nature. He has to battle the ocean after he falls from the yacht:

For a seemingly endless time he fought the sea. He began to count his strokes; he could do possibly a hundred more and then—

He struggles to overcome the difficult environment he finds himself in once he reaches the shore:

Jagged crags appeared to jut up into the opaqueness; he forced himself upward, hand over hand.

He saw no sign of a trail through the closely knit web of weeds and trees; it was easier to go along the shore, and Rainsford floundered along by the water.

Rainsford's external conflict is later continued when he attempts to evade General Zaroff. The general releases him and then starts hunting him like an animal. It becomes a struggle for survival. The gist of the story from this point onward involves Rainsford fighting the difficult terrain he finds himself in and also features his struggle to evade General Zaroff; Zaroff's manservant, Ivan; and the dogs they use to sniff him out.

Rainsford eventually outwits General Zaroff and, in the final scene of the story, confronts him. Their encounter represents Rainsford's final external conflict, as the following excerpt indicates:

Rainsford did not smile. "I am still a beast at bay," he said, in a low, hoarse voice. "Get ready, General Zaroff."

The general made one of his deepest bows. "I see," he said. "Splendid! One of us is to furnish a repast for the hounds. The other will sleep in this very excellent bed. On guard, Rainsford." . . .

He had never slept in a better bed, Rainsford decided.

Rainsford's biggest conflict is resolved when he kills the general and then sleeps in his (the general's) very comfortable bed.

emilyknight7 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are instances of nearly every main type of conflict in "The Most Dangerous Game." Man vs. nature is definitely a big one, as both Zaroff and Rainsford need to survive and thrive in the wilderness for the hunt. Zaroff and his strange hunting appetites could demonstrate a man vs. society conflict. Rainsford faces some man vs. self decisions as he chooses what to do during the hunt. 

The most prominent conflict in the story, however, is man vs. man. Since the story centers around Zaroff's hunt of Rainsford through the island wilderness, Zaroff, with his guns and hunting dogs, is clearly the greater danger and stronger foe. The pair struggles using both strength and mental intellect and it seems at first that Zaroff will win, as he is armed and knows the island better. Rainsford needs to use clever tricks to survive and eventually win the hunt. 

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The Most Dangerous Game

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