Figurative Language in The Most Dangerous Game

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  • 0:04 The Function of…
  • 0:48 Simile and Metaphor
  • 2:32 Sensory Language
  • 3:34 Personification
  • 4:04 Alliteration and Allusion
  • 5:07 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Katherine Garner

Katie teaches middle school English/Language Arts and has a master's degree in Secondary English Education

This lesson discusses definitions of relevant figurative language devices and explains how each of them are used in Richard Connell's classic 1924 short story 'The Most Dangerous Game.'

The Function of Figurative Language

''The Most Dangerous Game,'' by Richard Connell, is a famous short story about Sanger Rainsford, a hunter who falls off of his yacht and washes onto Ship-Trap Island. There, he meets General Zaroff, a man obsessed with hunting. Zaroff desires a challenge, so he hunts all of the humans who arrive on his island. As you may imagine, the mood of the story, or the feeling that the reader is meant to have while reading, is dark, eerie, and foreboding. To convey this mood to the reader, Richard Connell uses figurative language, or language that is poetic and not literal, to help create this mood and allow readers to intensely experience the story with all five senses.

Simile and Metaphor

Richard Connell uses similes and metaphors frequently to make comparisons between things in the story and other objects that readers are familiar with as a way to help describe something. So what's the difference between similes and metaphors? Similes compare the object by using the words 'like' or 'as.' Metaphors, however, simply state that one object is something else to make a comparison.

Similes are often used to describe an unfamiliar environment. For example, in the opening scene, Rainsford and his friend, Whitney, are sailing in the middle of a night so dark that it is 'like moist black velvet.' This simile aims to compare something that might otherwise be hard to imagine to something (moist, black, velvet) that is more tangible. The darkness of the night is also described 'like trying to see through a blanket.' The sea surrounding the island is compared to 'a plate glass window' and, later on in the story, the jungle is compared to 'a screen of leaves almost as thick as tapestry.'

One of the major themes of the story is a question of who is the hunter and who is the hunted, and Rainsford and Zaroff are often compared to animals using metaphors. For example, while Rainsford and Zaroff are playing 'the game,' Connell writes that 'Rainsford's impulse was to hurl himself down like a panther' and that, 'The Cossack was the cat, he was the mouse.' 'The Cossack' referred to Zaroff. Zaroff is also compared to a bloodhound and an ape at different times during the hunting scene. These comparisons reinforce the idea that they are hunting each other like animals. At the end of the story, when Rainsford and Zaroff face off in Zaroff's bedroom, Rainsford says, 'I am still a beast at bay,' saying that he will always be Zaroff's prey until he wins the game and kills Zaroff.

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