I think short fiction is one of the greatest types of literature. The compressed stories, intense situations, surprising ironic twists and abrupt finishes are some of the things I love about short stories. They always leave me thinking! Here’s a list of my favorites. What are yours?
“The Most Dangerous Game”
I found this terrific short story in my Norton Introduction to Literature, Second Edition. The editors of this anthology put it right next to one of my favorites by Ernest Hemingway: “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber.” Both stories are about hunting, but they actually appear in the same section because their plots are driven by suspense. Francis Macomber faces the terror of the hunt in Hemingway’s story. But hunting takes a shocking turn in “The Most Dangerous Game” when General Zaroff and an unfortunate visitor to his island play the game to the finish.
It could be, however, that Zaroff has met his match because Sanger Rainsford is an accomplished huntsman with “a certain coolheadedness.” When Rainsford falls off a ship in the Caribbean, he swims to Ship-Trap Island, a place no man wants to go. But Connell notes that “it was not the first time he had been in a tight place” and Rainsford shows impressive composure in the tight places that follow.
Zaroff, a mysterious Russian aristocrat, is obsessed with the hunt. He’s mastered all game and now he’s even a little bored with the grisly twist he’s developed to step things up. I won’t spoil the ending for you. There are plenty of exciting turns and both characters face the ultimate mental challenge of outwitting the other.
Richard Connell was an American author and journalist who lived from 1893 – 1949. “The Most Dangerous Game” was first published in Collier’s in 1924 and is one of his most well-known stories. He received the O. Henry Memorial Prize for this excellent story.
“The Most Dangerous Game” was made into a movie in 1932 and has been adapted into many film, radio and stage versions. I was surprised to learn that even a “Simpsons” episode parodied the story in one of its Halloween Specials, “Survival of the Fattest.”
Check this story out and find out who has met his match!