One of the ways to classify literature is its division into escape and interpretative literature. While the former exists for the readers’ entertainment, the latter is aimed at making reader think. Thus, these two types use different approached to identical issues. Like “The Most Dangerous Game”, “The Child by Tiger” is a story of a manhunt, but they belong to the two opposite kinds of literature. Studying the elements of escape literature and interpretive literature will help one to determine which story is which.
One of the first elements will be the use of real-life characters.The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell belongs to the escape literature because of the characters described there. The protagonist Sanger Rainsford is a celebrated hunter from New York. He wrote books about hunting snow leopards in Tibet so he knows a lot about hunting. Since the very beginning, readers find out that this character is brave, strong and good-tempered. Thus, they discover the most desirable character to be identified with. This character is simple and easy to understand, as some people in actual life. Rainsford’s goals and motivation are clear. He has hunting ambitions and seeks to get “some good hunting up the Amazon.” Thus, there is nothing mysterious or unclear in his actions. The character of General Zaroff is also easy to interpret. He is a living embodiment of a hunter. His appearance and life attitude fit the stereotypic image of a hunter perfectly. He is tall, strong, experienced, and venturesome. Hunting is his main passion in life. Both of these characters seem realistic, but they cease to be real themselves when they do unreal things. When Rainsford and General Zaroff get involved in hunting and chasing, they both display incredible resourcefulness and endurance. It seems a miracle that Rainsford survives. The very fact that the protagonist remains alive at hunting directly points out to the escape character of this story.
Meanwhile, “The Child by Tiger” by Thomas Wolfe is an interpretative story. Its protagonist Dick Prosser is complex, multi-dimensional character who is not always sympathetic. Dick is a living mystery. His shooting and boxing skills are easy to understand by the fact that he was in the army. Prosser has served a long enlistment in the United States Army, and the stamp of the military man is evident in everything he does. It explains his simple life and his soft walk. However, it does not explain everything. It is difficult for the reader to identify with him.
Another mysterious character is Pansy Harris, the cook of the Sheppertons. She is a kind girl with the most engaging smile, and though everybody likes her and she has a good job, she decides to leave. The actions of Dick and Pansy make readers think and wonder what motivates these characters. Their motivation is not as clear as that in the escape literature. Both of these characters have half-revealed tendencies that in actual life can belong to real personality. Nobody understands why Dick Prosser killed all those people and why he gave up finally. To add more, the protagonist dies at the hunting, leaving the reader unsatisfied and contemplating. That is more than enough to suppose that the way author describes his characters is a sign of the interpretive style.
The authors of these stories also differ in their use of real-life situations. The plot of “The Most Dangerous Game” is exciting, suspenseful and action-filled. The story starts with the unbelievable falling in water near the ‘Ship-Trap Island.’ When Rainsford wakes up the next day, he finds a chateau on this seemingly uninhabited island. What is even more astonishing, he finds a Russian general there, who knows Rainsford from books. “The Child by Tiger” is a more interpretive story than “The Most Dangerous Game” because of the plausibility of the coincidences. The entire passage about Rainsford’s arrival to the island in “The Most Dangerous Game” seems impossible. It is very unlikely that Rainsford would find a chateau on the uninhabited island with aristocratic owner who appears to know him. These events are far from reality, and they prompt one to read further. Drawn into the reading, one finds the pleasure of escape to the imaginary world full of adventures. Real-life situations have no place here as no one usually participates in human hunting in real life, where people have to deal with routine, exhausting work, and communication with average people. They are average themselves, so by reading “The Most Dangerous Game” they get a chance to relax, to make an imaginary trip to a beautiful island, and to become a hero there. Besides, the audience can count on a happy end here, which is an inalienable element of escape literature.
On the other hand, the plot of “The Child by Tiger” focuses on internal conflict that is more emotional and psychological. The readers observe life with all its hardships and with no decorations. The plot of this story is true-to-life. The author highlights the reality of events by specifying the historical context. The story starts with the words, “One day after school, twenty-five years ago, several of us were playing with a football in the yard at Randy Shepperton’s” (Wolfe 723), bearing a resemblance to memoirs. Such a beginning reveals precise time, place and names that imply the realistic background of the story. One can presume that the story takes place in the 19th century in the United States for it features black slaves. They live in a small town, and the author recalls their names. Thanks to the detailed description of the local way of life, the readers get the impression that this story is based on actual events. At that time, if the slave killed so many people in a small town, one could hardly expect another reaction of the people who lived there. Believable scenes of chasing reflect the reality in which one person cannot defeat the whole crowd. Dick Prosser does not possess any supernatural powers to do it. “The Child by Tiger” has no evident coincidences. The plot is unpredictable, and there is nothing that helps the protagonist to survive. Therefore, it confirms that Thomas Wolfe intended to create an interpretive story.
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Both authors also explain the attitude of their characters towards their own life. The opinions of the protagonists of “The Most Dangerous Game” are simple. They believe the world is made up of two classes, the hunters and the huntees. General Zaroff does not believe in value of human life while Rainsford does not believe in the value of the animal’s one. “Life is for the strong, general says, to be lived by the strong, and, if needs be, taken by the strong. The weak of the world were put here to give the strong pleasure. I am strong. Why should I not use my gift? If I wish to hunt, why should I not?” (Connell 8) This superficial attitude reflects the superficial nature of the story making it a vivid example of the escape literature.
The author of “The Child by Tiger” Thomas Wolfe provides insight into the depth of a human soul. Life attitude of the protagonist is unknown. Nevertheless, the author makes his own statements about life at the end of the story. “All life seemed to be withdrawn into thrilling isolation, the narrator says, and something had come into life – into our lives – that we had never known before. It was a kind of shadow, a poisonous blackness filled with bewildered loathing” (Wolfe 739-740). These words mean nothing but the idea that life will never be the same again. His real-life characters experience realistic situations, but the death of Dick becomes the turning point of their life. The story is educational for the readers, which is another characteristic of the interpretative literature.
Another aspect used in analysis of the given stories is believable changes in the characters’ ideas and attitudes. It is doubtful whether the protagonist of “The Most Dangerous Game” undergoes personality development. He uses his skills and experience to confuse General Zaroff and escape from him, which eventually saves his life. But he does not experience any personal drama; no moral issues seem to trouble his heart and soul. Nevertheless, Rainsford worries about the fate of the sailors who have to become the participants of the most dangerous game. Thus, Richard Connell presents the protagonist in situations that have no high philosophical meaning. Rainsford does not make any conclusions that bear moral value. He is depicted as a winner in a struggle for life. Nevertheless, there is nothing behind this victory.
With Dick Prosser, situation is different. Readers get to know he is an accomplished individual from the very beginning of the story. He has learned many different skills and his previous military experience taught him a lot. However, he decided to never use violence in everyday life. Prosser is a deeply religious person, so he seems to realize the difference between the good and the evil. The morals are a guiding force of his life, so Dick develops. Finally he changes his ideas of justice and decides to kill people. That is another indication of the interpretative manner of this story.