Imagery in The Most Dangerous Game

Instructor: Jennifer Carnevale

Jennifer has a dual master's in English literature/teaching and is currently a high school English teacher. She teaches college classes on the side.

Our senses allow us to experience the world, but did you know there is a literary device called imagery that helps our senses experience words on a page in much the same way? In this lesson we will analyze the imagery in the short story, ''The Most Dangerous Game'' by Richard Connell.

Mental Pictures

Have you ever read a story that made you feel as if you were right in the midst of the action? If so, you are noticing the imagery the author used to create a sensory experience that brought you right into the story. Imagery is descriptive language that helps create a picture in the reader's mind. Imagery is often a mixture of sensory perceptions, the five senses, and figurative language that paints for the reader a clear picture of what is happening in the story. This could be a scene, an action sequence, or the physical or emotional traits of a character.

Read on to learn about the imagery in the short story, The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell.

The Setting

The story opens with two hunters, Rainsford and Whitney, sailing on a yacht on their way to hunt big game animals in the Amazon. The first few pages are wrought with imagery of the night and nearby Ship-Trap Island, both serving as symbols for the chaos that will soon ensue. As Whitney mentions the mysterious island, Rainsford tried, ''to peer through the dank tropical night that was palpable as it pressed its thick warm blackness in upon the yacht.'' This sentence allows the reader to feel the humidity of the tropical night and see (or not see) the darkness in front of our characters. Rainsford then said to Whitney that, ''It's like warm black velvet,'' this simile, like the earlier imagery, was intended to help the reader understand the humidity and darkness which set upon the men.

Rainsford reaches the island after falling off the boat, and the next morning, he sets out to look for help. Connell describes the, ''unbroken front of snarled and ragged jungle (that) fringed the shore,'' which Rainsford confronted as e realized there was, ''no sign of a trail through the closely knit web of weeds and trees.'' From these descriptions, the reader can easily create a mental picture of a thick jungle setting filled with luscious and impassible greenery.

Connell uses vivid language to paint the picture of a luscious jungle full of trees with no path for Rainsford to enter.
Image of jungle

The Characters

After the setting is established, we are brought to the home of the island's owner, General Zaroff. In the quote below, Connell uses imagery in his physical description of the General to give the reader the same impression Rainsford gets when they first meet:

''Rainsford's first impression was that the man was singularly handsome; his second was that there was an original, almost bizarre quality about the general's face. He was a tall man past middle age, for his hair was a vivid white; but his thick eyebrows and pointed military mustache were as black as the night from which Rainsford had come. His eyes, too, were black and very bright. He had high cheekbones, a sharpcut nose, a spare, dark face--the face of a man used to giving orders, the face of an aristocrat.''

By using descriptive language, Connell provides the reader with Zaroff's physical features and demeanor so that we too can experience the General just as Rainsford does.

The Action

What really pulls us into a story is the feeling of suspense and tension that makes us want to read more. By using descriptive language based on sensory images, Connell allows us to be right there with Rainsford. For example, in the beginning of the story when Rainsford falls off the yacht, Connell describes the, ''muttering and growling of the sea breaking on a rocky shore.'' He describes Rainsford as he tries to battle the, ''jagged crags (that) appeared to jut up into the opaqueness; he forced himself upward, hand over hand.'' Here we get the image of the crashing of the waves and poor Rainsford who is trying to battle his way blindly in the blackness of the night.

The reader is pulled into action as Connell describes how Rainsford battles the waves and the danger of the rocks ahead.
Image of waves crashing on rocks

We are also brought into the action toward the end of the story as General Zaroff hunts Rainsford in the jungle.

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