Analyzing Suspense in ‘The Most Dangerous Game’

Suspense is one of the most effective tools used to grip the readers undivided attention in creative writing. It pulls the reader into the story, and gets them invested in the characters and the story line. It creates the intense feeling of needing to know what happens next. In “The Most Dangerous Game” Richard Connell successfully sustains the suspense with his skillful use of diction and setting as well as the carefully crafted antagonist, General Zaroff.

Richard Connell’s use of setting to increase the suspense is impeccable. In the beginning of the story, when Rainsford and some crew members are discussing ‘Ship Trap Island’ one of the crew members says “The place has a reputation, a bad one” and another says “This place has an evil name among seafaring men” to describe the island General Zaroff inhabits and hunts on (also known as ‘Ship Trap Island’). The reader feels anxious and nervous and wonders about what gives this island its fear-invoking reputation. Later in the story, when General Zaroff (antagonist) describes his hunting and how he traps people on his island, he says “Giant rocks with razor edges crouch like a sea monster with wide open jaws”. Using the analogy of ‘a sea monster with wide open jaws’ makes the setting a little more ominous and scary. The more eerie the setting, the more frightening it is. In this story, Connell utilizes the eeriness of his setting to make his story more suspenseful.

Diction is another one of the techniques used by Connell to add suspense to his story. After Rainsford falls into the Caribbean he hears screams that were an “extremity of anguish and terror”. Connell’s use of ‘anguish and terror’ as opposed to ‘fear’ makes of feel more scared and makes us want to continue on to find out who or what made such horrifying screams. When Zaroff talks about how he hunts, he says “to date I have not lost”. When he says this clipped sentence, we feel like something is left unsaid. Something like “and I do not plan to lose in the future”. He leaves the sentence hanging and this only increases the suspense. When he propositions Rainsford, he says “Your brain against mine”. This is another sentence that makes us feel like something has been left hanging. You feel like he is implying something, voicing his thoughts silently and subtly. When you do not know exactly what someone is thinking, especially the villain, you experience a feeling of even more suspense.

General Zaroff is the villain in this short story, and his mysterious persona and hospitality only increases our suspicions and fear about him. Connell creates an antagonist who, at first, gives shelter to our protagonist (Rainsford). It is later revealed, in a shocking twist that the reader is led into from the first paragraphs itself, that he hunts people for sport. His blasé attitude towards hunting people and animals is creepy and oddly intriguing at the same time. When talking with Rainsford he says “It would be impossible for me to tell you how many animals I have killed” and says that he is surprised that Rainsford “harbours romantic ideas about the value of human life”. These lines show his attitude and beliefs towards hunting for pleasure as well as the fact that he is unrepentant and has no qualms about killing to prevent boredom. When Rainsford first arrives it is said that “His smile showed red lips and stave off teeth”. This gives him the appearance of a predator. He also (when justifying hunting humans) says that “The weak of the world were put here to give the strong pleasure” showing his views of superiority and the people (his inferiors-if you will).Connell’s brilliant but scary villain adds suspense and intrigue to the story and makes the story even more enjoyable.

Overall, Richard Connell effectively sustains the suspense with several techniques including setting and diction. He skillfully crafts an intriguing and mysterious villain, General Zaroff, creating eerie settings and uses word choice to heighten the intensity of the story itself. When reading “The Most Dangerous Game”, Connell makes us sweat up until the very end. He draws the reader into the narrative, and gets them invested in the characters and their mysteries. His diction creates the intense feeling of needing to know what happens next and keeps the reader on his toes throughout the story. The story ends brilliantly and with our protagonist triumphant, enjoying a well deserved rest.

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