Heroes in The Most Dangerous Game and The Short and Happy Life of Francis Maycomber

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When the Greek heroes wanted to defeat Troy and win back Helena, they first had to suffer greatly, losing many men and nearly all belief, before they rose like the Phoenix from the ashes, showed their cunningness, turned the situation around and defeated the Trojans. This general plot structure is frequently obtained throughout literature in order to emphasize and honour the actions of a person or a group. A hero, placed in a situation which he wants to change, first suffers greatly and nearly loses all belief before mobilizing his last energy in order to overcome all expectations and solve the problem, or win the fight.

Both Connell and Hemingway make use of this dramatic structure in order to shape and underline the immense development each of their “heroes” undergoes. Both Macomber, in Hemingway’s “The Short and Happy Life of Francis Macomber”, and Rainsford, Connell’s protagonist in “The Most Dangerous Game”, need to flee from a desperate situation and undergo the above described heroic development. They are the unexpected heroes of the short stories.

The two authors, Richard Connell and Earnest Hemingway, both need to create a situation from which it is vital for the protagonist to flee so that they stay in line with the heroic development. Therefore, Connell’s hero, Mr. Rainsford, finds himself shipwrecked on a seemingly deserted island and is thus placed in mortal danger. Macomber, the protagonist in Hemingway’s short story, is caught in the dullness and routine of his marriage, which seems doomed to failure. While being a rich and successful businessman, he receives no respect from his wife and is regarded as a coward. Therefore, he plans to prove his manliness by going on a safari with her.

In order to further emphasize the necessity of escaping from the above mentioned dilemmas, the authors both increase the pressure on the main characters. Rainsford is not only shipwrecked on an island, he even finds himself in the claws of an insane man-hunter who wants to use him as pray. Macomber’s plans seem unsuccessful as well. Going on a safari with his wife and Wilson, a white hunter, he wanted to present himself in a masculine way. But he proves himself the direct opposite when losing his nerves in the lion hunt.

Avoiding a linear development of the plot and emphasizing the rising of the hero from the very bottom, out of the ashes, the protagonists have to experience an enormous disappointment, which at the same time marks the turning point of the story. In the case of Macomber, this setback is inherent in his finding out that his wife betrayed him with the “real man”, the hunter Wilson. Quite similarly, Rainsford also experiences a heavy setback. After having laid out an extremely difficult trail, from which he believed the man-hunter General Zaroff would never be able to follow it, he has to realize that the General has in fact been able to do so even by night, and that the General is playing with him. “The General was saving him for another day’s sport!” It seems impossible to escape.

At that point the readers of both stories would understand if the two protagonists would give up and surrender. And it is this sympathy and compassion felt by the reader that is essentially necessary to make the heroes stand out against the ordinary human being. It is extraordinary that they recover from the setback and mobilize their last energy in order to overcome all expectations and solve the problem and win the fight. Macomber does not give up but urges Wilson to hunt buffaloes. Again he finds himself in a dangerous situation when the hurt buffalo hides, just like the lion did, in the “brush”. But this time he does not cowardly run away. “…his mouth was dry again, but it was excitement, not fear.” He controls his nerves and when charged, “aiming carefully” kills the buffalo. He has overcome his fear, cowardice and his wife’s domination. He has become a man. The same applies to Rainsford.

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Heroes in The Most Dangerous Game and The Short and Happy Life of Francis Maycomber. (2023, May 15). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/heroes-in-the-most-dangerous-game-and-the-short-and-happy-life-of-francis-maycomber/

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