The Most Dangerous Game: Tone & Mood

Instructor: Kaitlin Oglesby

Kaitlin has a BA in political science and experience teaching.

If your heart races and a chill runs down your back when you're reading ''The Most Dangerous Game'', that's because the author is using tone and mood to great effect. In this lesson, we'll look at how the tone and mood change throughout the story.

What are Tone and Mood?

Close your eyes and imagine a happy forest setting, with sunshine poking through the canopy and woodland creatures chirping along. Now imagine that same forest at night, with a thunderstorm brooding overhead, and the only animal you hear is the ominous howl of a wolf.

Clearly, you'd rather be in one environment than the other. That is the tone of a work, the words that the author uses to set the mood. Speaking of mood, that's how a reader feels as he or she makes their way through a piece.

In The Most Dangerous Game, tone and mood are used to change the reader's experience from one of survival to one of welcoming comfort and then back to one of an even more harried survival to finally, in the last sentence of the story, to peace. Thus, the tone and mood alter throughout the story.

Tone of The Most Dangerous Game

Starting on the yacht, the tone is rather reassured, almost business-like. Rainsford and his companion are confident in their job. Even when Rainsford falls overboard, his brief fright is replaced with focus. That focus is used by the author to demonstrate that Rainsford is a man who is quite accustomed to danger.

When Rainsford first meets Zaroff, the tone completely changes. In a word, it becomes more civilized, as this is exactly what Zaroff wants to portray. Specific types of beverages are mentioned, since the writer assumes that the reader will acknowledge their place within the progression of a meal. Further, this civilization is juxtaposed against the true desire of Zaroff.

As the hunt commences, the author uses shorter clauses to speed up the action. The only really long sentences to be found are when Zaroff himself comments on Rainsford's efforts. In the end, the tone switches back to one of refinement before a brief interlude

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