Is "The Most Dangerous Game" an example of commercial fiction or literary fiction?

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belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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"The Most Dangerous Game" is a perfect example of a story written as commercial fiction that has gained the status of literary or classic fiction through age, notability, and influence. The story has been copied and used as inspiration many time, and is considered an archetypal example of suspense fiction. The story is often derided as a common piece of exploitation, with no merits other than an appeal to baser parts of human nature. It is also criticised for containing no overt or intentional symbolism or allegory; the story is usually interpreted as exactly what it is: a thrilling story about a man who hunts other men. While the direct literary qualities of the story are debatable, one can argue that the story avoids purple prose or unnecessary exposition by presenting the story in clear, plain terms, without the typical trappings of literary fiction. In fact, the story shows very powerful themes of conflict, including Man versus Man (Rainsford and Zaroff) and Man versus Society (Zaroff and the outside world), and through the action and adventure the two main characters are developed through their deeds, not through explanation or reputation.

That the story is still taught in schools shows how it has become accepted as a classic piece of fiction, if not a literary one. Overall, opinion comes down to whether the story is personally enjoyable or not. To summarize, it started out as commercial fiction with a broad appeal to a broad audience but has become a short story classic, which redefines it as literary fiction.


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