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Connell weaves elements of Gothic fiction with the adventure serial genre to create a fun and fast-paced yet darkly probing story. The Gothic elements in “The Most Dangerous Game” add to the story’s mysterious and suspenseful mood to expose the dark underside of the human psyche. In keeping with the Gothic tradition, Connell weaves the bizarre, grotesque, frightening, and unexpected into his story. The ominous Ship-Trap Island, for example, looms menacingly from the beginning of the story as a place that all sailors fear and avoid. Forbidding sounds such as gunfire and high-pitched cries then pierce the night, sending eerie chills down Rainsford’s spine. The darkness and the jungle add to this feeling, as do the blood-stained weeds, the hidden fortress, Ivan’s brooding presence, and the coldly calculating General Zaroff. These elements, among many others, build tension and pave the way for the shocking revelation that Zaroff kills people for sport on his island.
Combining these Gothic elements with the serial adventure genre ratchets the suspense even higher and adds to the sense of animalistic panic that all prey feel as a predator draws nearer. The jungle, chase, fashioning of traps, near escapes, and great white hunter taken out of his element and with the odds against him all help to expand the scope of the story and contribute to its increasingly breathless pace. Elements of the traditional, “literary” short story, such as the preoccupation with self-actualization and personal struggle, are still present, particularly in Connell’s central concern with the nature of humanity and the interplay of instinct and reason. These elements highlight the story’s seriousness and exploration of fear and death, but Rainsford’s journey remains primarily a physical one and less emotional or philosophical. In fact, readers remain uncertain at the end about whether Rainsford truly learns from his experience on the island after finally killing Zaroff.
Read about how Gothic fiction provides the literary context of another work, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre.