Irony in The Most Dangerous Game

“The Most Dangerous Game” is a suspenseful, ironic, action-thriller. I thought the author successfully created an attention-grabbing plot. The story included some very interesting characters, though there were few; General Zaroff, the owner of the mysterious Ship-Trap Island and the hunter in the Game; Ivan, the enormous, brutish Cossack, Zaroff’s servant; and Rainsford, the hunter turned hunted and main character of the story. Three of the many ironies in this book include: 1) the fact that Rainsford, being a hunter, became the hunted; 2) Rainsford didn’t care about the prey he hunted and

how they felt, but in the end, he realized how an animal at bay felt; and 3) the setting, Ship-Trap Island, is used by the general as a means of trapping ships.

It is apparent in the very beginning of the story that Rainsford is a hunter that believes hunting is “the best sport in the world”. He claims that “The world is made up of two classes–the hunters and the huntees. Luckily, you and I are hunters.” He says this in the exposition of the story. After this statement, he proceeds to fall off the yacht and swim to assumed safety aboard Ship-Trap Island where he meets General Zaroff. Here, Zaroff provides Rainsford with room and board and treats him with the utmost respect. Slowly, Zaroff reveals his true nature and tells Rainsford of his activities on the dreaded island. He informs Rainsford that he hunts humans for sport and Rainsford is his next target. The hunter became the hunted.

The second example of irony goes hand-in-hand with the first. In the very beginning of the story, Rainsford believes that no one should care about how prey feels and that they have no understanding of what’s going on. His partner, Whitney, believes that prey only understands one thing, fear. Rainsford merely laughs at this proposition until he is hunted by Zaroff. After three long days of being chased all across the small Ship-Trap Island, Rainsford finally understands. He realizes how prey feels and what drives them, fear, as Whitney said. Rainsford now knew the terror a beast at bay feels.

The third example of irony is quite interesting, in my opinion. The setting of the story is on a small, remote Caribbean Island deemed Ship-Trap Island. No one really knows why the island has such a name, for no one has ever left the island alive to tell the tale. What is intriguing is that not only is the island known for trapping ships, the General actually uses the island itself to capture the ships. The island is shaped in such a way that there appears to be a channel that travels through it. The General built a lighthouse that shines upon this apparent channel where there are actually jagged rocks that could tear any ship apart. It is his way of attracting new targets for him to hunt. If you ask me, it’s really quite genius.

As one can plainly see, “The Most Dangerous Game” is a story filled with many subtle examples of irony. Only three are explained in this essay, but there are many located throughout the story. The story is quite thrilling in that it is a hunt. Any hunt is suspenseful, for the hunter, the hunted, and even the uninvolved bystander (in this case the reader). It is an excellent short story.