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The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell

Overview

  • Title: The Most Dangerous Game
  • Written By: Richard Connell
  • Published On: January 19, 1924
  • First Published In: Collier’s magazine
  • Also Published As: The Hounds of Zaroff
  • Awards: O. Henry Award 1924

“The Most Dangerous Game” is a classic short story written by Richard Connell. It tells the story of Sanger Rainsford, a big game hunter who finds himself stranded in the Caribbean on the desolate Ship Trap Island. There he squares off against the ruthless General Zaroff, a madman who hunts human beings on his private island.

This tale of survival and hunting is an early forerunner for many novels and movies that came later: The Running Man by Stephen King, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Rollerball starring James Caan, and The Grounding of Group 6 by Julian F Thompson.

The story was adapted into the 1932 movie of the same name directed by Ernest B. Schoedsack and starring Joel McCrea, Fay Wray and Leslie Banks, and again in 2022 by director Justin Lee.

In 1943, Orson Welles adapted it for the radio show Suspense.

“The Most Dangerous Game” has been called the most popular short story ever written in English. While this may be a stretch, it is certainly one of the most widely read and often anthologized tales in literary history.

Who Was Richard Connell?

  • Born: October 17, 1893
  • Died: November 22, 1949 (Aged 56)
  • Best Known For: The Most Dangerous Game

Richard Connell was a fiction writer and journalist. His short stories, like The Most Dangerous Game, were regularly published in The Saturday Evening Post and Collier’s magazine. He also enjoyed success as a screenwriter.

Connell won an O. Henry Award for his short story The Most Dangerous Game in 1924. He earned an Academy Award for his screenplay Meet John Doe (based on his short story A Reputation) in 1941.

Connell produced four novels (The Mad Lover, Murder at Sea, Playboy, and What Ho!) and four short story collections (The Sin of Monsieur Pettipon and Other Humorous Tales, Apes and Angels, Variety and Ironies).

THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME
FOR STUDENTS

Why Read The Most Dangerous Game?

The Most Dangerous Game is not simply a great short story, it is the forerunner of some of the most popular fiction of the 20th and 21st Centuries. Everyone from Stephen King to Suzanne Collins has been inspired by this tale, and it still resonates today.

Is the world really just broken down between the hunters and the hunted? Is it really all about survival of the fittest? Or is there more to humanity than the law of the jungle?

These questions still haunt us today, and few stories have ever explored them so effectively.

What is the theme of The Most Dangerous Game?

The theme of The Most Dangerous Game can be summed up by General Zaroff’s declaration: “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.”

This boast — and Rainsford’s insistence that Zaroff is wrong — are at the heart of the story.

Is Zaroff right? Is the law of the jungle all that matters? Does might truly make right? Or is Zaroff a madman, his morality twisted out of whack? This is the theme explored by Connell in this story.

What is the setting of The Most Dangerous Game?

The Most Dangerous Game is set on the Caribbean island of Ship Trap Island. Ship Trap has a terrible reputation, which Connell notes at the beginning of the story.

This place has an evil name among seafaring men, sir.

As well it should. The island is the private hunting grounds of General Zaroff, who brings men to its shores to be hunted and killed.

Who is the protagonist of The Most Dangerous Game?

The protagonist of The Most Dangerous Game is Sanger Rainsford. He is a big game hunter on his way to hunt jaguar in the Amazon. Rainsford is a keen student of hunting. He has traveled the world in pursuit of the sport.

Rainsford is also a bit of an intellectual. He has written about his exploits, and his publications are considered the work of an expert hunter.

Who is the antagonist of The Most Dangerous Game?

The antagonist of The Most Dangerous Game is Generall Zaroff. Zaroff is a world-class hunter. Ship Trap is his private island and hunting ground. He captures men and brings them to his island, hunts them down and kills them for sport.

Zaroff considers himself a refined gentleman, and his home possesses all the finest aspects of high society.

When Rainsford arrives, Zaroff says that he has read Rainsford’s writings on hunting snow leopards in Tibet.

What is the inciting incident of The Most Dangerous Game?

The inciting incident occurs when Rainsford falls off the yacht as it travels past Ship Trap Island. Once in the water, Rainsford has no choice but to swim to shore. Once on the island, he finds his way to General Zaroff’s house and discovers the truth about the island with the terrible reputation.

What is the conflict of The Most Dangerous Game?

The conflict of the story is between Rainsford and General Zaroff. It is the most basic conflict in storytelling: a literal fight to the death.

Zaroff allows Rainsford a head start on the island and tells him that if he can survive for three days without being hunted down and killed, then Zaroff will let him off the island.

Rainsford must bring all his knowledge, cunning and skill to bear in order to survive.

What is the climax of The Most Dangerous Game?

The climax comes when Rainsford scales the cliff beside Zaroff’s house and sneaks inside. When Zaroff returns home, he finds Rainsford inside his bedroom.

The two men square off to the death.

At the end of the story, Rainsford sleeps in Zaroff’s bed after killing the general.

THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME
FOR TEACHERS

Why teach The Most Dangerous Game?

The Most Dangerous Game is not simply a classic story. It is a tale with clear connections to other novels and movies that come after it, making it an excellent candidate for demonstrating how literature is a conversation.

Its themes are also clearly and persuasively stated in the text, making it ideal for classroom discussion and analysis.

Furthermore, it is simply a great adventure story. It achieves much of the same effect as Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, but inside of a few pages rather than an entire novel.

Why is The Most Dangerous Game good for reluctant readers?

The Most Dangerous Game is a captivating tale. The writing is clear and the pace moves steadily, quickly forward.

Unlike many classic stories, The Most Dangerous Game’s themes are frankly stated in the text and easy to understand, making it a strong choice for analysis with reluctant readers.

Furthermore, it is an exciting tale with a touch of the gruesome and morbid. Those touches are what captivate all readers, whether they are reluctant or not.

More Stories Like The Most Dangerous Game

  • The Running Man by Stephen King
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • Battle Royale by KĊshun Takami
  • Tomorrow When The War Began by John Marsden
  • The Grounding of Group 6 by Julian Thompson

THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME
LESSON PLANS

Our lesson plans for The Most Dangerous Game are designed to use the story as a springboard for further investigation, asking students to analyze the text of the story and then go beyond to engage with the text in ways that spur critical thinking.

Our lesson plans are broken out in multiple sections: Stories in Context, Stories in Conversation, Interrogating Characters, Missing in Action, Analyzing Language, Activity, and Launchpad (see below for descriptions of each section).

These sections can be used to build a larger unit focused on The Most Dangerous Game, or they can be taught individually. This allows educators to do either a deep or shallow dive into the story as their particular class demands.

The short story is included with these lesson plans.

Just need a FREE PDF copy of this story? It is included in our Best Short Stories for Middle School free download.

In this section, we provide a short bit of background information about the story, author Richard Connell, big game hunting, and Russian Cossacks (General Zaroff is a Cossack).

This is designed to very briefly prep the reader but not distract from the story or lessons to come.

In this section we briefly acknowledge some of the other stories The Most Dangerous Game has inspired over the years. Stories do not exist in vacuums, and it is often enlightening for students to make the connections between their reading and other literature and movies that exist.

In Interrogating Characters, we zoom in on a single character from the story and invite students to analyze that character more deeply.

We never select the main character, as that is often too easy a target. Instead, students are asked to ponder the inner workings of a secondary character, pushing them to think more deeply about the story and the text.

Every story leaves something out. In Missing in Action, we ask students to consider the voices of characters who could have been included in the story but weren’t, or characters who are noted in the text but never have the opportunity to speak.

In this case, we ask students to ponder why there are no women anywhere in Connell’s story. Ship Trap Island is supposed to represent the pinnacle of high society, a wholly cosmopolitan and aristocratic abode. And yet there are only men in this society.

Why?

In Analyzing Language, we pose six questions that focus on the specific language the author uses. Writers must make choices about what words to use, and those choices are often of great importance, revealing what the author is thinking as they write.

These questions focus students’ attention closely on the text at its most basic level and ask them to get inside the head of the writer.

In the Activity section, we ask students to step back just a bit from the text and engage in something more imaginative.

With The Most Dangerous Game, students are asked to draw a map of Ship Trap Island. Students can use the text for guidance on where everything is located.

Once their map is complete, they are asked to imagine themselves as tour guides and write down what they would tell visitors to the island as they showed them all the sights.

Launchpad is where we ask students to use the story as a starting point and then imagine what happens next. This is the lesson where students can flex their imaginative muscles and practice their creative writing skills.

We focus in on a particular aspect of the story and then ask students to use that as their “launchpad” for crafting their own tale.

THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME
ADAPTATIONS

The Most Dangerous Game Radio Play

The Most Dangerous Game Movies

The Most Dangerous Game 1932

  • Directors: Irving Pichel & Ernest B. Schoedsack
  • Stars: Joel McCrea, Leslie Banks and Fay Wray
  • Screenwriter: James Ashmore Creelman
  • IMDB Rating: 7.1

The Most Dangerous Game 2022

  • Director: Justin Lee
  • Stars: Chris ‘C.T.’ Tamburello, Casper Van Dien, and Judd Nelson
  • Screenwriter: Justin Lee
  • IMDB Rating: 3.4

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