In “The Most Dangerous Game,” what does Rainsford learn about the feelings of hunted animals, given his own experience of being hunted?

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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In Richard Connell's short story, "The Most Dangerous Game," the protagonist (Sanger Rainsford) begins the tale with a very specific idea about hunters and the hunted.

"Nonsense," laughed Rainsford. "This hot weather is making you soft, Whitney. Be a realist. The world is made up of two classes--the hunters and the huntees. Luckily, you and I are hunters."

That said, Rainsford feels as though he is one of the elite, given his position as a hunter. It does not seem possible, in his own mind, that he could ever be on the other side of a gun.

Once he finds out that Zaroff hunts humans, given they are the premiere prey since they can reason, Rainsford states that what Zaroff does is not hunting; instead, it is murder.

"Hunting? Great Guns, General Zaroff, what you speak of is murder."

Later, Rainsford is given the chance to be on the other side of the gun. Zaroff has made him his latest prey. At times, Rainsford must climb trees and circle back over his tracks, similar to the behavior of an animal being stalked.

Further into his hunting, Rainsford is compared to an animal--making his transition from hunter to hunted even more recognizable:

He stepped back from the quicksand a dozen feet or so and, like some huge prehistoric beaver, he began to dig.

Perhaps the most poignant quote from the story, in regards to Rainsford's change of feeling about hunted animals, comes close to the conclusion of the tale. Rainsford is no longer a hunter; instead, he knows what it feels like to be the hunted.

Rainsford knew now how an animal at bay feels.

In the end, Rainsford's feelings about hunted animals changes. True to life, Connell shows how one must experience certain things in life in order to appreciate the feelings of another. In this tale, Rainsford must come to be the animal in order to understand how it must feel.


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