The short story “The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell is composed of character, setting and conflict. One of the critical themes in the short story is irony, which plays a major role in the story. There is irony in the setting, a remote jungle island, the conflict, murder verses hunting, and the characters, General Zaroff who is a crazed man-hunter and Mr. Rainsford, his prey. Irony is essential to the plot of the short story, “The Most Dangerous Game”. It can be recognized multiple times throughout the duration of the story, particularly within the literary elements conflict and characterization.
The conflict is contradictory or off in many instances. Being that the hunter, Rainsford, becomes the hunted. Zaroff identifies the conflict as he states: “ You’ll find this game worth playing…Outdoor chess! And the stake is not without value, eh? ”(Connell 21). This quote is when Zaroff first decides to inform Rainsford that they will be playing the game.
Another twist of the unexpected is when Zaroff was so engrossed in the thrill of the game that he forgot about its danger. Zaroff left himself vulnerable to attack, forgetting that in “outdoor chess”, there were two possible victors.
The roles of the hunter and the hunted were again switched, as proven in the quote, “A man, who had been hiding in the curtains of the bed, was standing there”(Connell 27). Here, Rainsford decides to “trade” roles with Zaroff, only further proving that the conflict was ironic. The characters are ironic for various reasons. Zaroff is a rich, respected, intelligent, and seemingly civilized man. He turns out to be a psychotic hunter who experiences thrill from murder. His refined or sane side is represented in the following quote, “ ‘You’ll have a cocktail, Mr.
Rainsford,’ he suggested. The cocktail was surpassingly good; and the table appointment were of the finest-the linen, the crystal, the silver, the china”(Connell 15). There are multiple other examples such as the General’s intellect, his great wall of animal heads, and how he has read every one of Rainsford’s hunting books. Also, his military attire and general ranking were deceiving as well. With his pristine looks and luxurious lifestyle, he manages to deceive Rainsford. Rainsford hunted the man in a horrible fashion.
Rainsford is an ironic character because in the beginning of the novel, he was conversing about how animals that are being hunted have no fear and that he feels no shame about being the hunter. As shown in the quote, “You’re a big game hunter, not a philosopher. Who cares how the jaguar feels? ’ ‘Perhaps the jaguar does,’ observed Whitney. ‘Bah! They’ve no understanding”(Connell 10). This is ironic because in an unexpected twist, Rainsford becomes the prey and realizes what it was like to be the hunted. Irony obviously plays a major role in the short story.
The characters as well as the conflict in “The Most Dangerous Game” exhibits the theme irony throughout the story. “The Most Dangerous Game” obviously encompassed many forms of irony. The setting, however, used a form of irony in almost all aspects. Irony ties into the setting in few cardinal examples. The physical setting itself was ironic, as proven by the quote, “But as he forged along he saw to his greatest astonishment that all the lights were from one enormous building – a lofty structure with pointed towers plunging upwards into the gloom”(Connell 13).
Connell describes that there is an abandoned island off the coast of the Amazon, with a towering building petruding out of the uninhabited landscape. This is ironic because murder occurs daily in this dark, dense jungle and it lies on the outskirts of an immense, luxurious estate. This is a clear example of irony in the setting. The fact that something as fundamental as setting uses irony, illustrates just how much important it is to the short story. The short story “The Most Dangerous Game” by Connell applies the theme of irony in almost all aspects of the story.
The three main literary elements that exhibit irony include setting, conflict, and characterization. The entire island was ironic, the way the regal house stood awkwardly over the immense jungle. The characters were also ironic; Zaroff a seemingly respectable man doubles as a murderer. Also, Rainsford a respectable hunter is transformed into the hunted. The conflict was quite ironic; it changed with little to no notice on several occasions. The short story, “The Most Dangerous Game” was built off of this theme; almost every component of the story incorporated irony in one way or another.