Personification in The Most Dangerous Game

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  • 0:03 What Is Personification?
  • 1:05 Examples in ''The Most…
  • 3:31 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 defines and offers examples of a literary device called personification, and then explains how Richard Connell uses this device in his famous 1924 short story 'The Most Dangerous Game.'

What Is Personification?

Personification is a literary device that enables an author to use figurative language to describe something that is inanimate, or not human, with characteristics typically attributed to human beings. Often, this is accomplished by using verbs that are normally associated with human behavior, as in the following: ''The friendly trees waved their branches at us as we walked by.'' The effect of personification is to make the described object seem animated and vivid, even though the object is not actually alive.

As it is used in fiction, personification does not actually bring a nonliving thing to life. For example, the depiction of the walking and talking candlestick, clock, and teapot in the Disney movie Beauty and the Beast is not an example of personification but rather anthropomorphization, which is when an author portrays an animal or inanimate object as actually behaving like a human being; by contrast, personification ascribes human characteristics to objects or animals as a way of creating imagery.

Examples in ''The Most Dangerous Game''

In ''The Most Dangerous Game,'' Richard Connell uses personification to intensify the menacing tone of the story. ''The Most Dangerous Game'' is a famous short story that revolves around a world-famous hunter, Sanger Rainsford, falling overboard and washing ashore on Ship-Trap Island, where he meets General Zaroff. Zaroff is a hunter too, and is obsessed with finding something to hunt that will give him a challenge. Soon, world-famous hunter Rainsford finds himself in a game that renders him prey to the hunter Zaroff.

All of the objects personified in the story seem aggressive and scary, thus contributing to the sense of imminent danger surrounding Rainsford on Ship-Trap Island. Personification of inanimate objects helps create an eerie tone by making every object seem as if it is out to get Rainsford. Even before Rainsford falls overboard, Connell describes the dark, warm night as it ''pressed its thick warm blackness against the yacht.'' Many of the examples of personification relate to the sea and the rocks encircling the island in order to emphasize to the reader that Rainsford is trapped; while dangerous qualities apply to General Zaroff and Ship-Trap Island itself, Connell also depicts the hostility of the surrounding sea.

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