THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME: ANALYSIS OF SITUATIONAL IRONY
Analysis of Situational Irony in "The Most Dangerous Game" by Richard Connell
“The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell portrays the cyclical events of a situational irony with Rainsford, one of the main characters starting out as a hunter, then becoming the hunted and then reverting back to being a victorious hunter having to escape with his life and limb in tact and with General Zarroff, another main character becoming the hunted from being the hunter parallel to the adage “Sometimes your up. Sometimes you’re down”. Situational irony or irony of circumstance as an element of literature refers to a situation where one event is expected to happen but another event actually occurs. Situational irony refers to the discrepancy between what is expected to be and what is. The development in the situation where Rainsford found himself to be shows the unexpected cyclical changes in his status as a hunter and the hunted.
Rainsford as a hunter was shown in the story through the comparison of the character traits of Rainsford and Whitney. Although both characters are hunters, there was a difference between the two on how they regard hunting. Whitney regards hunting as a great sport for the hunter but not for the jaguar being hunted when he replied "For the hunter, […] Not for the jaguar" () in response to Rainsford’s remark that hunting is "The best sport in the world" (). Rainsford was elated with the statement of Whitney and commented that jaguars do not have understanding so there is need to worry about what the hunted jaguar feels. Whitney was persistent in reiterating that even while jaguars’ do not have a similar reasoning when compared to man they recognize and experience the basic instinct of being hunted “[…] The fear of pain and the dear of death.” () This is something that human’s in tight situations experience similar to an animal being hunted. This is a lesson learned by Rainsford as he ironically became the hunted in General Zarroff’s island.
Rainsford thought that he had found a safe haven after reaching land by swimming towards the sound of gunshots with the thought that these were made by hunters so that “Where there are pistol shots, there are men. Where there are men, there is food." () He followed the blood trail and reached a chateau, where he discovered that General Zarroff together with his servant Ivan are deliberately trying to capsize ships that venture close to the island, capture the passengers and crew and offer them a deal of giving them their freedom if they are able to elude the general for three days in the relationship of hunter and hunted. Since, the general saw no hunting challenge with his prisoners; he makes the offer to Rainsford instead by giving a deeper meaning to the statement "Tonight, […] we will hunt--you and I." () Rainsford had no choice, it was either to agree to become prey or become subject to the taste in sport of Ivan the giant. This event commences Rainsford becoming the prey. As prey, Rainsford sought to keep calm and plan his moves to evade the general despite his growing fear and physical fatigue. He constantly psyched himself by repeatedly saying, "I will not lose my nerve. I will not." () Then in the third day, Rainsford finally thought of a plan to gain his freedom.
Rainsford jumped to the sea below to make the general think that he has escaped the hunt and evading the agreement. To the astonishment of the general, Rainsford was hiding behind the curtains in his room, ready to spring in attack much as a predator would stalk its prey and go for the kill once the prey drops his guard. As the general went to his room to retire for the night thinking about how he would replace his servant, two of his best dogs and find a suitable prey for the next day, Rainsford startles him for the final combat.
It was through this final event that the situation changed and Rainsford became the predator or hunter and General Zarroff became the prey or hunted. For the general, these last moments gave him great pleasure because he realized that he had finally met a worthy adversary. The general expressed his pleasure through the statement "Splendid! One of us is to furnish a repast for the hounds. The other will sleep in this very excellent bed.” As the events concluded, Rainsford “had never slept in a better bed […].” ()
In the beginning, Rainsford and General Zarroff were hunters. Then the story developed to put Rainsford in the situation of a prey and Zarroff the predator. In the end, their situations changed and Zarroof became the prey and Rainsford the predator. Life’s events indeed unfold around a cycle.
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