Why is the lighthouse an important symbol in the Most Dangerous Game?

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ktmagalia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Richard Connell's adventurous short story, The Most Dangerous Game, gains strength from his use of symbols, specifically that of the lighthouse.

Lighthouses... have become symbolic monuments of society’s efforts to reduce the hazards of seafaring.

However, General Zaroff's lighthouse, is far from "reduc[ing] the hazards of seafaring." Instead, it plays an ironic and symbolic role in its connection to the setting of Shiptrap Island.

If one first looks closely at the functions of a lighthouse, one can begin to better understand its symbolism and ironic use in the story.

Lighthouses have always had two principal functions: to warn of danger from a spot that sailors could see from a safe distance both night and day, and to be guides into harbors or anchorages.

Obviously, Zaroff's lighthouse served a different function: instead of a warning to sailors to ensure safety, his lighthouse ironically guided sailors into his cove entrapping them into his "Most Dangerous Game" and hunting entertainment. Hence the island's name, Shiptrap Island.

Read the study guide:
The Most Dangerous Game

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