The Most Dangerous Game

by

Richard Connell

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Most Dangerous Game can help.
The Island Symbol Icon

Ship-Trap Island hosts both a twisted jungle and a palatial mansion, untamed wilderness set against an edifice of noble civilization, but Connell uses the story’s events on the island to reveal those boundaries as arbitrary. After reaching the island’s shores, Rainsford experiences a false sense of security knowing from the gunshot sounds, bullet cartridge, and hunting boot print that the island is inhabited by men. He views the traces of mankind’s technology as a sign of salvation, and avoids trekking through the jungle, thinking he will be safe once he reaches the mansion. What he finds is just the opposite—the mansion is the most dangerous place on the island, and Rainsford soon learns that he must conquer all spaces of the island, both the jungle and the mansion, in order to survive. Indeed, he finally defeats Zaroff only by breaking in to the mansion and hiding in his bedroom. Thus the island as a whole acts as a kind of microcosm for the world, in which both wild places and supposedly “civilized” places can be sites of danger and human cruelty.

The island also serves as a metaphor for General Zaroff himself. A mixture of cruel violence cloaked within the external trappings of civilization, Zaroff intentionally lives in seclusion away from society and its ethical expectations. Like most psychopaths, he lacks empathy, and without that human connection, he exists as an island encircled by but distinctly apart from humanity. He literally isolates himself from others on the island, but even when he does interact with other humans he is disconnected from them because of his cruelty.

Get the entire The Most Dangerous Game LitChart as a printable PDF.
The most dangerous game.pdf.medium

The Island Symbol Timeline in The Most Dangerous Game

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Island appears in The Most Dangerous Game. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Most Dangerous Game
Civilization and Community Theme Icon
...and Whitney explains to Rainsford the superstition surrounding an ominous place they are passing called Ship-Trap Island . He claims that not even cannibals would live there because it’s such an evil... (full context)
Condoned Violence vs. Murder Theme Icon
Extreme Social Darwinism Theme Icon
Between comments about the island, Rainsford and Whitney (who are both hunters) argue about whether animals experience thoughts and feelings.... (full context)
Civilization and Community Theme Icon
Condoned Violence vs. Murder Theme Icon
...and falls overboard. With the yacht sailing by without him, Rainsford swims to the mysterious island with the sounds of “animal” screams and gunshots to guide him. (full context)
Civilization and Community Theme Icon
Condoned Violence vs. Murder Theme Icon
...edge and finds blood-stained weeds and signs of a hunter, which, he reasons, indicate the island is inhabited. He walks along the jungle’s edge and seeing lights in the darkness, he... (full context)
Civilization and Community Theme Icon
Condoned Violence vs. Murder Theme Icon
Extreme Social Darwinism Theme Icon
Zaroff demonstrates for Rainsford how he stocks the island with fresh human prey by tricking ships to sail into the cliffs with guiding lights.... (full context)
Civilization and Community Theme Icon
Condoned Violence vs. Murder Theme Icon
...night, where he discovers he’s been locked in and cannot escape the house or the island. (full context)
Civilization and Community Theme Icon
Condoned Violence vs. Murder Theme Icon
...Rainsford asks what happens if he wins, Zaroff assures him that he can leave the island, but on the condition that he never tells anyone about his experiences there. Rainsford refuses... (full context)
Civilization and Community Theme Icon
Condoned Violence vs. Murder Theme Icon
...hunt, even giving Rainsford tips about what shoes to wear and dangerous places on the island to avoid. He leaves to take a nap before pursuing Rainsford at dusk. Hunting is... (full context)