At the beginning of the story, Rainsford and Whitney have a discussion about hunting and the feelings of animals. What is Rainsford's position on these two subjects?
The conversation between Rainsford and Whitney at the beginning of Richard Connell's short story "The Most Dangerous Game" is important because it provides foreshadowing for later events and winds up being highly ironic. The discussion involves Rainsford's assertion that hunted animals have no feelings and experience neither fear nor pain. Rainsford believes that Whitney's argument about animals having feelings is nonsense. He tells Whitney,
"Be a realist. The world is made up of two classes—the hunters and the hunters. Luckily, you and I are the hunters."
He basically suggests that the purpose of the animal is to provide enjoyment for the hunter. This discussion proves to foreshadow Rainsford's later encounter with General Zaroff who uses a variation of Rainsford's argument in his explanation of why he hunts men:
"If I wish to hunt, why should I not hunt? I hunt the scum of the earth—sailors from tramp ships—lascars, blacks, Chinese, whites, mongrels—a thoroughbred horse or hound is worth more than a score of them."
Just as Rainsford had rationalized hunting to Whitney, Zaroff echoes Rainsford's opinion that the hunter has no restrictions in pursuing his avocation. When the tables are turned and Rainsford becomes the prey, it is highly probable that Rainsford's attitude drastically changes, revealing the irony in his earlier argument to Whitney. When he confronts Zaroff at the end of the story he claims that he is still a "beast at bay." He now understands the fear and pain of the hunted animal.
There is quite a contrast between how Rainsford feels about hunting and how Whitney feels. Consider this conversation.
"The best sport in the world," agreed Rainsford.
"For the hunter," amended Whitney. "Not for the jaguar."
"Don't talk rot, Whitney," said Rainsford. "You're a big-game hunter, not a philosopher. Who cares how a jaguar feels?"
Rainsford does not care how the animal feels, and it has never occurred to him to think about it.
Rainsford has always been a hunter. In fact, we learn that he wrote a book on the subject.