Figurative Language in "The Most Dangerous Game" Short Story
In "The Most Dangerous Game," Rainsford falls overboard on a dark night and swims to supposed safety on Ship-Trap Island. What he doesn't understand is that he will spend the next week fighting for his life against Zaroff and his giant butler Ivan. Zaroff, an avid hunter, explains that Rainsford is the prey in the hunt, and Zaroff explains that indeed it is man who is the most "dangerous game." In order to tell the story well, Richard Connell employs many examples of figurative language.
Imagery is the tool writers use to paint a picture with their writing. Imagery refers to anything that is received through the senses: sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell. Connell creates imagery in many places. He describes the hot night when Rainsford falls off the boat by writing: "... the dank tropical night that was palpable as it pressed its thick warm blackness in upon the yacht." This helps the reader feel as if he is there. Another example of imagery is the following: "The sensuous drowsiness of the night was on him. 'It's so dark,' he thought, 'that I could sleep without closing my eyes ...' " Imagery brings the reader closer to the story.
A comparison of two unlike things is known as a metaphor. Connell uses metaphors to create a comparison that says so much in just a few words. In the dark of night, when Rainsford was talking about falling asleep, he says, "... the night would be my eyelids." He was saying that the night was so dark, it was as if his eyes were closed. He also describes falling in the water and watching the boat continue by saying, "The lights of the yacht became faint and ever-vanishing fireflies." This comparison shows how the lights were twinkling as he was bobbing in the water.
When an author gives human qualities and characteristics to inanimate objects, this is personification. Connell writes that "... a sharp hunger was picking at him." Picking at someone is a human quality, and therefore this is personification. Another great example is: "... the sea licked greedy lips in the shadows." The sea cannot lick its lips, as this is a human quality.
A symbol is an object that represents something both literally and figuratively. In other words, it has come to mean something beyond itself. In this story, the bed is the most important symbol. At the end of the story, there is a standoff between Zaroff and Rainsford in Zaroff's bedroom. They were to fight to the death, and the very last line says, "He had never slept in a better bed, Rainsford decided." The bed symbolizes Rainsford's victory in the game, and his defeat of Zaroff.
Kathryne Bradesca has been a writing teacher for more than 15 years. She has also contributed to newspapers and magazines such as "The Morning Journal" and "The Ignatius Quarterly." Bradesca received a master's degree in teaching from Kent State University.