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Flashback in The Most Dangerous Game

Instructor: Katherine Garner

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

This lesson explores how Richard Connell uses flashbacks to delve into the past of a strange and enigmatic character, General Zaroff, in his classic 1924 story The Most Dangerous Game.

The Most Dangerous Game Synopsis

The Most Dangerous Game, by Richard Connell, is the suspenseful story of a hunter named Rainsford who, after falling overboard from his yacht, finds himself stranded on Ship-Trap Island. There, he meets General Zaroff, a man who has turned the island into his private hunting preserve where he hunts the only game that gives him enough of a challenge: humans. In the story, Connell utilizes the flashback device, where several scenes are memories from Zaroff's past. This device helps us better understand Zaroff's personality, motivations, and why he is the terrifying person that he is.

General Zaroff's Flashbacks

When Rainsford arrives at Zaroff's home, Zaroff shows him his collection of animal heads decorating the walls of his trophy room. Rainsford is impressed by the size of his Cape buffalo head and comments that he considers that to be among the highest and most dangerous prizes in big game. In his first small flashback, Zaroff recalls that the Cape buffalo did put up a fight and ended up fracturing Zaroff's skull so that he was disabled for six months, but since then, he had not encountered another challenge in hunting until he began stocking his island with a more dangerous game.

Later in the evening, Zaroff tells Rainsford about his childhood in Russia and how he became such a good hunter. He describes his rich father's acreage in Crimea that he learned to hunt on and the gun that his father gave him when he was only five. He recalls how his father praised him when he shot some of his father's turkeys and mentions that he killed a bear when he was only ten. He continued to improve his marksmanship and eventually joined the army, where he served as a general until the Russian Revolution began and many of the wealthy class fled the country. Since then, Zaroff had been traveling around the world and hunting the largest and most dangerous animals possible.

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