What Is the Symbolism in “The Most Dangerous Game”?

Symbolism in Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game” involves the jungle on the island, the island itself, the color red and darkness. All of these story elements symbolize the death, depravity and violence that take place in General Zaroff’s little private world and within his mind.

From the moment that the reader sees the protagonist Rainsford on the deck of the boat enveloped in darkness, he gets a clue that something sinister lurks. When he falls into the “blood-warm waters,” Rainsford has begun his entry into a surreal world of death and insanity. Once he steps onto the island, not coincidentally named “Ship-Trap Island,” he is indeed trapped in Zaroff’s world. Islands are not generally considered to be traps, but this one snares everyone who comes to it. The jungle hides the island and, in so doing, hides Zaroff’s depraved lifestyle. It is dark and full of tangled trees and undergrowth that symbolize the twisted mind of its inhabitant. The color red is everywhere in the story, from blood-stained weeds to the red sash that Ivan, Zaroff’s body guard, wears to the red beet soup to Zaroff’s “red-lipped smile.” Bloodshed is frequent on this island. The word “game” in the title is itself symbolic of both the animals that Zaroff hunts and the hunting game he plays with them. The game is “dangerous” in that Zaroff actually hunts men who cannot escape him, but “the most dangerous game” is actually Rainsford who outsmarts him.