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How Does Connell Use Suspense in "The Most Dangerous Game"?


“The Most Dangerous Game” is a short story by Richard Connell originally published in 1924. The protagonist is a hunter named Rainsford who becomes marooned on a Caribbean island. On the island the evil General Zaroff hunts Rainsford for sport until Rainford manages to turn the tables. Connell creates a suspenseful feeling of uncertainty and anticipation throughout "The Most Dangerous Game." Connell uses suspense to make the story more immediate and powerful for the reader.

Set a Fast Pace

Connell uses suspense in "The Most Dangerous Game" to keep the story fast-paced. While the story doesn't feel rushed, there are no parts where the reader is certain what will happen next. There is no good stopping point. Almost every important plot event is marked by a moment of suspense. For example, when Whitney begins the story with, "Off there to the right--somewhere--is a large island. It's rather a mystery--," this signals to the reader that the island is important, and then the story jumps into solving that mystery.

Maintain an Immersive Feel

On several occasions Connell uses suspense to force the reader to recap a bit and speculate before revealing what happens. This further draws attention to Rainsford's plight. When "Desperately he struck out with strong strokes after the receding lights of the yacht," Rainsford's fate is uncertain. The reader feels like he or she is living the story with Rainsford. Suspense makes "The Most Dangerous Game" a more immersive read.

Keep the Reader Rooting for the Hero

The suspense used in "The Most Dangerous Game" draws attention to Rainsford's courage and determination. While being hunted, the protagonist hopes that he will not lose his nerve, for example, when he breaks cover before changing hiding places. This suspense helps the reader to sympathize more with the him and recognize the absolute strength needed to survive his situation. The reader feels the continual effort Rainsford must put in to survive. Another time Rainsford muses, about Zaroff, his assistant -- Ivan, and their pack of vicious dogs, that, "They would be on him any minute now. His mind worked frantically." The suspense makes the reader respect Rainsford and root for him.

Sets an Anxious Tone

"The Most Dangerous Game" is liberally sprinkled with suspense from start to finish in order to set an anxious tone. The protagonist Rainsford is a world-renowned hunter who, at the beginning of the story, defends hunting to a companion who suggests hunting might be cruel. Later, when General Zaroff hunts him for sport and Rainsford learns what it is like to be prey first hand. Just as Rainsford is treated to the feeling of anxiety from being preyed upon, the reader feels this same anxiety due to Connell's use of suspense. This anxious feeling helps the reader to feel like Rainsford in the story and like the prey he hunted.

About the Author

Beverlee Brick began writing professionally in 2009, contributing to various websites. Prior to this, she wrote curriculum and business papers in four different languages. As a martial arts and group fitness instructor, she has taught exercise classes in North America, Europe and Asia. She holds master's degrees in French literature and education.

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