“The Most Dangerous Game”: Survival of the fittest Imagine being a Pronghorn during hunting season. Even eating or sleeping would be a terrifying experience. Now imagine you are a man being hunted by another human. What exactly does this imply? Social Darwinism, maybe? “Social Darwinism is term coined in the late 19th century to describe the idea that humans, like animals and plants, compete in a struggle for existence in which natural selection results in “survival of the fittest”’ (Robert). Did survival of the fittest acceptable for humans? Social Darwinism is unfair for human because it is the idea that strong people have the right thrive and take advantage of the weak and doesn’t believe that poor and uneducated people have the same rights as wealthy, educated people.
“Under Social Darwinism human social order was the result of evolution those on top of the heap deserved to be there” (Grigg). This is representing the theme of hunters and the hunted in the story of “The Most Danger Game”.
Social Darwinism is that the hunters are the ‘fittest’ and prosper, while the hunted shrivel to the bottom in the most dangerous game. “Survival of the fittest, usually applied to animals that live in the world riddled with death and danger is applied to humans by General Zaroff”(Dunleavy). This is revealing the concept of Social Darwinism by telling a story of a man who hunted humans. In Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game” the author successfully strings together a dangerous web of plot, point of view, and character create suspense and immerse readers in hypothetical danger all humble man when it comes to position in nature and to reveals the unreliable nature of this narrator and despite outward signs of civility, man is a beast.
His strategic use of these literary elements forces the reader to question the harsh suspicion of life, and the social construct of “Survival of the Fittest.” To begin with, throughout the short story Connell’s use plot to create suspense and immerse readers in hypothetical danger all humble man when it comes to position in nature. Connell utilizes slow revelation of detail and mysterious foreshadowing of future dangers to emphasize suspense. To commence, at the opening of the story, Connell uses the conversation between Rainsford and Whitney on the hunt to launch his message on man’s arrogance about his own nature. For instance, Rainsford, says, “The world is made up of two classes–the hunters and the huntees. Luckily, you and I are hunters” (1). This comment shows Rainsford arrogance.
He is on top of caves nothing for what’s below him. Because the reader ultimately sees Rainsford’s transformation in the story, this moment is used by the authors to show his attitude towards man’s arrogance towards nature. Consequently Connell uses the conversation over the most dangerous game between Rainsford and Zaroff to advance the story. For example, near the beginning of the story, Rainsford repeatedly tries to get the general to tell him what his game is all about. Zaroff, after much hinting states, ‘I’ll tell you, … You will be amused, I know… I had to invent a new animal to hunt… life is for the strong, to be lived by the strong, … if needs be, taken by the strong. The weak of the world were put here to give the strong pleasure. I am strong. Why should I not use my gift? If I wish to hunt, why should I not? I hunt the scum of the earth: sailors from tramp ships… lassars, blacks, Chinese, whites, mongrels… A thoroughbred horse or hound is worth more than a score of them” (9). Readers have ban on the edge of their seats wondering what Zaroff was talking about. Eventually, this buildup of suspense causes stress and tension to increase, but also now pushes action forward because it causes Rainsford to realize he’s dealing with madman.
Help Connell raises his question on the value of human life. Patel, during the hunt, Rainsford finds himself in a tree with the general meticulously stalking him. As Rainsford hides, he becomes aware of Zaroff’s presence. For instance, the narrator states, “Something was coming through the…, coming slowly, carefully, coming by the same winding way Rainsford had come… That which was approaching was a man…he paused, also beneath the tree… studied the ground. The hunter shook his head several times, as if he were puzzled. Very deliberate he blew. The pent-up air burst hotly from Rainsford’s lungs. His first thought made him feel sick and numb. The general could follow a trail through the woods at night; he could follow an extremely difficult trail; he must have uncanny powers… Rainsford’s second thought was even more terrible… Why had the general smiled? Why had he turned back? The general was playing with him!
The general was saving him for another day’s sport! The Cossack was the cat; he was the mouse. Then it was that Rainsford knew the full meaning of terror” (14). This moment causes Rainsford to experience terror for the first time but pushes action forward became now he must step up his game if he is to survive dele because Zaroff could have killed Rainsford but chooses to save him for another day, Rainsford’s life is a game and not valuable. Beyond that, through tasteful perspective, Connell employs the third-person limited omniscient narrator to allow readers to understand the story the way Rainsford sees the situations and this “peeing through the character” eye helps tappet Connell message in that reveals the unreliable nature of this narrator. To start, the narrator conveys his point-of-view on Rainsford, when he went to General Zaroff house for help, and he knocked the heavy door. Indeed, the narrator relates, “He thought he heard steps within; the door remained closed. Again, Rainsford lifted the heavy knocker, and let it fall” (Connell 4).
It is not by chance that Connell has introduced the Rainsford knocked on Somebody’s door. He doesn’t even know who is alive there which illustrates Rainsford’s hunger and choiceless with his position. Connell use this to launch his massage for reader that the hunter who never care for nothing change to be hunted and through on the situation. Therefore, at this moment in the text, the narrator proves himself inside Rainsford’s head and he tells how he felt throughout the story. In addition, Connell’s limited-omniscient narrator gives the reader enough subjective description into Rainsford as very creative, his fears and ideals when he is being hunted by Zaroff. For example, the narrator states, “He had not been entirely clearheaded when the chateau gates snapped shut behind him. His whole idea at first was to put distance between himself and General Zaroff; and, to this end, he had plunged along, spurred on by the sharp rowers of something very like panic. Now he had got a grip on himself, had stopped, and was taking stock of himself and the situation.
He saw that straight flight was futile; inevitably it would bring him face to face with the sea. He was in a picture with a frame of water, and his operations, clearly, must take place within that frame” (13). Through this description by the narrator, the reader comes to fully appreciate Rainsford’s creativity, ideals, anxiety and fear in the reader, used by author to show what is ordinarily felt by prey. To extend this idea of “being hunted” further, the narrator explicitly reveals Rainsford’s become understand and considers the fear of being prey for the first time in his life. As evidence, the narrator argues, “The general was playing with him! The general was saving him for another day’s sport! The Cossack was the cat; he was the mouse. Then, it was that Rainsford knew the full meaning of terror” (14).
Through the careful observations of the narrator, the reader comes to appreciate, the antagonist how he handles every station by the moment-by-moment and understanding the natural responses in the protagonist. Lastly, Connell uses direct and indirect characterization to tells the reader about General Zaroff, the antagonist in the story, who best supports the author’s message that despite outward signs of civility, man is a beast. To commence, the author uses direct characterization to reveal Zaroff physical attributes. For example, the narrator states, “there was a bizarre quality about the general’s face. He was a tall man past middle age, for his hair was a vivid white; but his thick eyebrows and pointed military mustache were as black as the night from which Rainsford had come. His eyes too were black and very bright. He had high cheekbones, a sharp cut nose, a spare, dark face–the face of a man used to give orders, the face of an aristocrat” (Connell 5). This example reveals that General Zaroff an intimidating individual, whose height and facial fractures could scare anyone. Also, if his eyes are black and bright this intensifies the readers fear as well. Connell is using Zaroff physical description to illicit fear.
Like when a small animal encounters a predator. Furthermore, despite his looks, Zaroff is indirectly characterized as civilized. For instance, Zaroff states, “you were surprised that I recognized your name. You see, I read all books on hunting published in English, French, and Russian. I have but one passion in my life, Mr. Rainsford, and it is the hunt’ (6). This evidence shows that General Zaroff is civilized. It shows that he reads in three different languages is a multi-traveler, and he is a sophisticated man who also values the finer things in life beautiful, a wonderful contrast to his intimidating presence the author uses to show the complexity of the predator. Just like a small animal would, upon encountering a predator would be confused, so Connell is keeping audience on their toes trying to figure Zaroff out. In addition, the author also uses indirect characterization to show how General Zaroff defines what life is and who he is in its midst.
The reader notes this when Zaroff argues, ‘Life is for the strong, to be lived by the strong, and, if needs be, taken by the strong. The weak of the world were put here to give the strong pleasure. I am strong. Why should I not use my gift? If I wish to hunt, why should I not? I hunt the scum of the earth: sailors from tramp ships–lassars, blacks, Chinese, whites, mongrels–a thoroughbred horse or hound is worth more than a score of them’ (9). This example of indirect characterization illuminates General Zaroff is an opinionated and strong individual who does not respect Rainsford’s perspective regarding the value of human life. When he speaks his mind, he provides the reader with the opportunity to formulate his/her own opinion of him, a ruthless predator who cares for only himself.
Moreover, the author again specifically characterizes General Zaroff when he states, “’I refuse to believe that so modern and civilized a young man as you seem to be harbors romantic ideas about the value of human life’ (9). This is important to the reader’s understanding of the General, Zaroff showing a merciless individual who does not exercise empathy for anyone. To conclude, Connell’s use of direct and indirect characterization through General Zaroff reveals little by little as that man in nothing but an animal despite any singe of civility. In conclusion Connell uses three literary elements namely, plot, point of view, and character to explore the anxiety in life with its cynicism and competition.
Though using these elements Connell uses the hunt and relationship between Zaroff and Rainsford to beautifully depict traces of competition and Social Darwinism man’s own society, then and still even now. In turn to answer the question, “what does survival of the fittest entail?” Well as can be seen, using this classic piece of literature by Richard Connell the reader can appreciate that “survival of the fittest” is the harsh cynical reality of life and our society. Reader can conclude what it means is that everyone will, experience the anxiety of competition. It may feel as though we are being hunted down at times. However, Connell shows the reader not to fall and tremble before the “enemy” or “predator”. Instead, take a stand and fight for what is right and stick to your beliefs. There’s a Rainsford within all of us. Sometimes it takes a hunt to bring a human being out. And remember, that individual could be a beast at bay. Also, sometimes it takes a stand to build the hypothetical Value of human life or sometimes it takes a stand to reveals little by little as that man in nothing but an animal despite any singe of civility.