Symbols 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.

Stories contain characters, settings, and events, but did you know all of those pieces can represent more than simply the literal world? Read this lesson to learn about symbolism in connection to the short story, ''The Most Dangerous Game.''

A Deeper Meaning

Not all things are what they appear to be, and that concept holds true when it comes to literature. Things such as characters, objects, settings and even colors can represent emotions, archetypes and much more. In literature, when something represents something else, we call this symbolism. Let's take a look at the short story The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell, and analyze the symbols presented and their meaning.


  • Whitney- This thoughtful hunter represents our pathos, our ability to feel sympathy or pity for others due to an unfortunate situation. Whitney argues that animals feel the fear of pain and death, showing us the other side of hunting, the consequence of killing animals. Whitney symbolizes compassion, sympathy, and our emotional intelligence.
  • Rainsford- Rainsford on the other hand represents logic, the pure reason that removes emotion from the argument. He argues that animals feel nothing and hunting is simply part of evolution. The greater animals win, and therefore there is nothing to feel bad about. Rainsford symbolizes logic and emotional ignorance.

Whitney and Rainsford juxtapose the two ways of thought, emotion versus logic, or more symbolically, the brain and the heart. Their opposition could signify what some call the two sides of the brain. They represent the idea of emotion balanced by reason.

  • General Zaroff- The general represents narcissism. He symbolizes a god complex which makes him believe he can do whatever he pleases without question, so much so that he captures people and hunts them for sport without sympathy. Zaroff represents an unapologetic evil and selfish choices.

General Zaroff (as shown in the 1932 movie) symbolizes the evil in the world.

  • Ivan- Ivan is Zaroff's servant who follows the general's orders without question. He represents the masses that also follow without question, doing what he is told, even if it means aiding in kidnapping and murder.

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