A Comparison of “The Child by Tiger” by Thomas Wolfe and “The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell
Although written by two starkly different authors, Thomas Wolfe’s “The Child by Tiger” and Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game” are two works of literature from the short story genre that can be put side by side in comparison. Both writers lived nearly during the same epoch but led contrasting lives. Thomas Wolfe (1900 -38) was a native of Asheville in North Carolina, a locality in which he spent the entirety of his life before succumbing to miliary tuberculosis. Richard Connell (1893- 1949) was an “urban folk”, born and bred in New York. He was an alumnus of Harvard University and a veteran of The Great War (1914-18) fighting for the United States Army in France. Both men lived lives that were poles apart and culturally dissimilar; a fact that accounts for their different literary approaches. The purpose of this essay is to provide a clear comparison of the two short stories, analyzing their similarities and differences.
To start with, both novels have male protagonists who lead lives that are contradictory to what they claim to stand for. Take, for example, General Zaroff in Connells “The Most Dangerous Game”. As a Cossack who claims descent from an aristocratic Russian family, he strictly adheres to a cultured life full of civility. His life is littered with modern conveniences in addition to living in a chateau where meals served to him, in the same manner, as they would have back at home or in the Czar’s court. He even remarks to Sanger Rainsford, “we do our best to preserve the amenities of civilization here, please forgive any lapses. We are well of the beaten track you know” (Connell 13).It is thus ironic that a man who admits that he hunts fellow human beings for sport would be so concerned with every ounce of civility. Similarly, Dick Prosser, the protagonist in Wolfe’s “The Child by Tiger” lives a life converse to the principles that his religion has firmly etched in him. Throughout the story, he is constantly in prayer while reading his Bible (Wolfe, et al. 332). Incongruity sets in when he goes on a killing spree, committing grave acts of brutality when it is clear that the Sixth Commandment from the same Bible that he draws his piety from, strictly forbids murder. He is in an active state of cognitive dissonance.
The differences that exist between the two short stories can trace their roots in the literary approach used to mold them. Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game” in literary circles, is what many refer to as escape literature. In using this approach, the author writes their work for the sheer pleasure of it to make their reader aware of their surroundings. Sanger Rainsford succinctly describes his environment; from the raging high sea to the lush jungle that he has to cut through to reach the General Zaroff’s house. Additionally, the General is a well traveled and read gentleman who describes all his hunting excursions together with his quarry in great detail (Gale 65).The story leaves its readers with an ending that is rather playful and in suspense when they now have grapple with whether Sanger Rainsford decided to finally kill the man who was hunting him, or he simply left. Wolfe’s “The Child by Tiger” is a prime example of interpretive literature, whose sole goal is push the reader to ponder about life and educate them on aspects that they would normally want to evade (Mauldin 19). Wolfe presents an educative story that seeks to help the reader understand that every man has his own demons and darkness is a common denominator amongst them all. Dick Prosser act of mass murder was premeditated. He had indicated this in the Bible that he was so fond off and was aware that he would soon be on his way “walking through the valley of death” (Johnson 200). In true interpretive literature fashion, Dick Prosser’s death is not how the story ends. The readers are suddenly reverberations when new characters are introduced who relished taking part in the hunt and even brag about it.
In conclusion, The Child by Tiger” by Thomas Wolfe and “The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell are two short stories that were masterfully crafted by two skillful authors. In them, we find both similarities and differences in the approach use to present the story and how the plot builds. What is common, however, is the creativity that both authors use to provide the reader with a true masterpiece of literature.
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