Compare and Contrast: “The Destructors” and “The Most Dangerous Game”
The goal of this essay is to explore the short story by comparing and contrasting various elements of this type of fiction. To achieve this purpose, the essay focuses on the following two short stories: “The Destructors” by Graham Greene, and “The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell. Set in the 1950s in war-torn London, Greene’s short novel follows the story of a gang of teen-agers who are planning to destroy an old building that stands in the middle of a neighborhood that was reduced into rubble during WWII. The pointlessness of this violent and destructive act highlights the brooding evil that lurks in the heart of humans, even in innocent boys who manifest unprovoked violence and destructiveness. On the other hand, Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game” is a thrilling narrative of how an accomplished professional hunter is turned into the hunted after being stranded in an isolated island in the Caribbean. This essay considers two aspects of these two short stories for the purpose of comparing and contrasting them. First, the conflicts that give life and underpin the stories are looked into and compared; second, the element of characterization as illustrated in these stories is examined. Greene’s short story is a brooding and thought-provoking narrative whose power as a literary fiction is driven by psychosocial factors, while Connell’s is a fast-paced thriller whose life is dependent upon the pitted skills, wits and abilities of its contending main characters. .
There are various conflicts in Greene’s “The Destructors,” but not all are sustained from beginning to end. Initially, for example, it seems that the main conflict is going to focus between Blackie and T, with the former as the old leader of the gang and the latter the Johnny-come-lately who is going to challenge that leadership. However, it turns out that Blackie does not offer much of a resistance when T. starts to exert his influence over the gang. On the contrary, Blackie gives T. his support, hesitantly at first, but later on with decisiveness. It can also be said that the story articulates the conflict between the old and the young, but this is merely superficial. As T. states in the story, they are not destroying Old Misery’s century-old house out of hatred for the old man because there is no fun in that. The act is not something personal, but merely about destroying things. The chief conflict, therefore, that pushes the story to action is the conflict between the elements of destruction and preservation/order. Destroying the old man’s century-old house, which had survived WWII bombings, may be mindless and pointless, but it’s a hunger in the boys that needs to be fed. Seeing the house standing amidst the rubbles of war, its awesome interior preserved from the ravages of time and conflict, stirs something inside T. - a feeling he infects the rest of the gang with. It is, thus, the conflict between destruction as personified by T. and his gang, and preservation as personified by the old man and his house that pushes the entire story into life. In the end, T. and the gang succeed in the pointless destruction of the house. The resolution of the conflict in favor of T. and the gang presents a very unsatisfying ending because of the absence of redemption on the part of the protagonists.
In contrast, Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game” offers a gratifying ending because the primary conflict is resolved towards a protagonist that has shared values with the reader. In this short story, the primary conflict is man versus man. On one side is Sanger Rainsford, a professional and famous hunter from New York City, and on the other is General Zaroff, a wealthy Cossack from Crimea who is obsessed with the sport of hunting. General Zaroff is afraid that he is losing his excitement for the sport because he has hunted all sorts of sports and has always gotten what he wanted. He, thus, invents a hunting sport that involves humans because humans unlike animals have reasons and are, therefore, more challenging to pit skills with. The contrasting perspectives of the two main characters on this ‘sport’ serve as the underlying conflict between the two men. Nonetheless, the real conflict that drives the story to the thrilling tale that it is, is the man-versus-man conflict. Both characters are experienced hunters and together with their skills, with and other abilities provide a thrilling aspect to the story. Like the protagonist in “The Destructors,” the protagonist in this story succeeds in resolving the conflict, but unlike in the former, the resolution of that conflict is satisfying to the reader. This is because the position of the protagonist in this story is something that a reader is bound to agree.
Greene’s short story “The Destructors” has two main characters in Trevor and Blackie. Trevor is outstanding for his decisiveness and his determination. He also exhibits leadership skills and the ability to organize and plan. He is obviously intelligent because no dumb boy could have planned the complete destruction of the old man’s house using simple tools wielded by young boys without anyone getting hurt. However, in a sense, this makes the story unbelievable. Although his father was once an architect, it is doubtful that a 15-year old boy simply turns into a construction wizard by simply being his son. T. is obviously a troubled boy. His mindless obsession to destroy the old man’s house is unreasonable. It is hard to understand his motivation, except that he may have developed psychological issues from the trauma of the war, the financial downslide of the family or the stress of moving into a new neighborhood. The other main character in this story is Blackie. Blackie’s character, unlike Trevor’s, is more predictable and more real. He is the usual rebel who turns to hooliganism to get attention from his family and society. For example, he agrees to T’s plan in destroying the old man’s house thinking that it would raise the popularity of the gang. Like T. he has good leadership quality because he can command the members of the gang to submission. He is the usual inner-city boy who turns to gang membership because of the poor conditions at home.
In Connell’s story, the main characters are Rainsford and General Zaroff. Both these characters are outstanding because they are accomplished hunters. Although both do not feel anything about killing animals for sports and are motivated by the excitement of the kill, there is a difference between them. Rainsford does not mind killing animals, but will not go as far as hunt people for sport. Zaroff has no such reservation or moral compunction. He is an egotist whose motivations are focused on achieving self-pleasure even at the expense of others. He crosses the line in the quest for thrill and pleasure. The story does not provide much inkling as to how these characters developed their present attitude towards things, except that Zaroff’s father cultivated his son’s love for hunting and encouraged him to set no limits in this respect.
The two short stories considered in this essay take place almost at the same time with the WWII as the intervening event between them. Although one tells a story about young boys and the other about two grown and experienced men, both stories deal with the darkness that lurks in men’s hearts. In Greene’s story, the boys give way to their baser instinct to destroy beauty for no reason at all and in Connell’s, Zaroff crosses the line for selfish reasons – to sustain the thrill of hunting even though it means killing humans. However, the conflict in “The Darkness” is more psychological than real. In Connell’s story the main conflict is palpable because it involves the pitting of the hunting talents and wits of the two men. Moreover, Connell’s resolution of the story’s conflict is more satisfying because it is more aligned to society’s moral standard, while Greene’s conflict resolution leaves something to be desired as unreasonableness and destructiveness are allowed to win the day. However, Greene’s story is more thought-provoking and disturbing because it is nearer reality than the obviously fictitious short story of Connell. Nonetheless, Connell’s story is more thrilling and enjoyable to read.
Greene, G. (1954). The Destructors.” Internet Archive. Retrieved from http://archive.org/stream/TheMostDangerousGame_129/danger.txt
Connell, R. (1924). “The Most Dangerous Game.” Fiction: the Eserver Collection. Retrieved from http://fiction.eserver.org/short/the_most_dangerous_game.html