The Most Dangerous Suspense
The short story, “The Most Dangerous Game” Richard Connell is about a hunter named Rainsford as he tries to survive in a game of being hunted. The story starts with Rainsford and his partner, Whitney, discussing a mysterious island when sailing past it. Soon after, Rainsford hears three gunshots and falls into the ocean where he must swim towards the island to keep himself alive. He then meets General Zaroff, a man who lives on the island, soon figuring out that General Zaroff hunts humans for sport. Now, Rainsford must survive being hunted by Zaroff, also known as playing the “game”. In order to make this story interesting, the author must be able to create suspense to keep the reader on the edge of their seats. So how exactly does the author create suspense? The author creates suspense by using two key techniques: descriptions of the setting, and unanswered questions.
Right off the bat, Richard Connell’s short story starts with an ominous vibe using words with negative connotations to describe the setting, building suspense for the reader. One example is when Richard Connell uses descriptive words with
negative connotations and blocks out the sight of the reader in order to build uncertainty. When Rainsford and Whitney converse about the island in front of them, they “can’t see it” and are “trying to peer through the dank tropical night that was palpable as it pressed it thick warm blackness upon the yacht” (Connell 1). The setting is part of the unknown, and no one can see what is beyond it. The descriptive setting purposely blocks the sense of sight for the character and forces the readers to be curious about what is beyond the dark. Humans usually have five senses, and taking away one of the senses suddenly is bound to create fear. With sight, fear is created since they are so used to being able to observe what is in front of them. It makes them feel uncertain and lets their imagination go wild, furthermore allowing them to create images in their head as to what is in front of them. Especially with the words the author uses such as dank and cold, it makes the readers feel the suspense instead of only seeing it. In addition, Connell proceeds to use words with negative connotation in his short story and make readers feel the chills from mere word choice alone. When Rainsford is released into the jungle, he finally observes that the “silence of a dead world was on the jungle. Toward morning when a dingy gray was varnishing the sky” (Connell 10). The author uses words such as silence and varnishing to describe the setting and create the mood of fear for the reader. The word silence creates an ominous feeling because the reader cannot hear anything, therefore they cannot analyze if Rainsford is in a dangerous situation or not. As stated previously, taking away a sense from the reader creates a void, making the reader anxiously feel that anything could creep up on them.
Another technique the author uses to create suspense is through unanswered questions. After Rainsford manages to win the game, he is enraged with a thirst for revenge, saying “‘I am still a beast at bay,’...‘Get ready, General Zaroff.’... ‘One of us is to furnish a repast for the hounds” (Connell 13). This implies what General Zaroff has done, without telling the reader directly. Yet the readers still are not told if General Zaroff has genuinely died or if this is all part of his scheme. The readers are also not told how Rainsford is able to get back home without the help of Zaroff. The readers are also not informed if Rainsford even woke up, which could also imply he could have died. The author leaves an after-taste of the story in the reader, to keep the reader thinking. Connell is aware that humans fear the unknown, so the more the reader thinks about these questions, the more suspense the readers will create for themselves. In addition, the author produces suspense with unanswered questions by dragging out the question, making the reader figure out the question before the main character. When General Zaroff is expressing how it is too easy to hunt animals and how he has found an animal that can reason, Rainford interjects that “no animal can reason”. Zaroff insists that “there is one that can (Connell 6). At this point in time, the readers have already figured out that the new animal Zaroff is talking about is humans, whereas Rainsford has yet to.
This brings a chill down the reader’s spine, as they have to hope Rainsford will be able to figure it out on his own. This creates suspense by making the reader know more information than the character the reader already feels attached to. It gives them endless ideas of what Zaroff could be planning, yet there is no clear intention of what Zaroff might do to Rainsford, all the reader is aware of is that something feels off. All the author had to do was to give the reader a small nudge in the right direction and successfully make the readers ponder on the matter.
Richard Connell uses unanswered questions and descriptions of settings to create suspense in his short story “The Most Dangerous Game”. All in all, Richard Connell is aware of how the human mind works and how to push readers in a certain direction so that they create suspense internally for themselves. He purposely takes advantage of humans’ fear of the unknown and makes sure to keep the reader on the edge of their seats.