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The Most Dangerous Game

by Richard Edward Connell

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Student Question

How does Connell use figurative language in "The Most Dangerous Game" to enhance the story's mood?

Expert Answers

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Connell uses figurative language in the very beginning to create the mood of suspicion. He does this most effectively with the repetition of the idea that it is extremely dark, a place wherein we are all afraid.

He uses simile:

 It's like moist black velvet.

To display personification, Rainsford found himself:

trying to peer through the dank tropical night that was palpable as it pressed its thick warm blackness in upon the yacht.

Darkness can't press itself on anything.

Further on, Rainsford finds himself alone on deck in his own confidence and narration reports of him:

There was no sound in the night as Rainsford sat there but the muffled throb of the engine that drove the yacht swiftly through the darkness, and the swish and ripple of the wash of the propeller.

You can almost feel that kind of dark, that which you can't see. I think this repetition demonstrates another aspect of figurative language: the symbol. Darkness is often a symbol for evil, and although Whitney said it, Rainsford hasn't experienced it... yet. This brings plot into play. We are being set up to agree with Rainsford because we like heroes. This is what makes the story rich: both sides are presented, the evil he is about to encounter and his ability to overcome evil. The author most effectively presents this possibility through figurative language.

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How does Richard Connell use figurative language in his popular short story "The Most Dangerous Game"?

"He lived a year in a minute," Connell writes of his protagonist, Sanger Rainsford, whose exemplary hunting skills are put to a life-threatening test in this suspenseful narrative about one man hunting another.  Rainsford, not exactly the most emotional of men, finds himself washed ashore an island in the Caribbean, and soon enough is in a horrific situation as the hunted prey of one General Zaroff.  As the malicious "game" orchestrated by Zaroff gets underway, Connell uses the above mentioned hyperbole (defined as a purposeful exaggeration for effect) as well as many metaphors constructed to describe the nature of the hunt.  At one point, Rainsford thinks to himself, "The Cossack [Zaroff] was the cat; he [Rainsford] was the mouse."  Rainsford also refers to himself as "a beast at bay" as he prepares for one final attempt to save his own life when he confronts Zaroff in Zaroff's bedroom. 

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