Compare And Contrast Rainsford And Zaroff

Compare and contrast between Zaroff and Rainsford in "The Most Dangerous Game."

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Rainsford and Zaroff are alike in being hunters. They are both wealthy enough to indulge themselves in the expensive sport of big game hunting. Both have extensive hunting experience, though the older Zaroff has more than Rainsford.

As the story opens, they both share a callousness about the game they...

See
This Answer Now

Start your subscription to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your Subscription

Rainsford and Zaroff are alike in being hunters. They are both wealthy enough to indulge themselves in the expensive sport of big game hunting. Both have extensive hunting experience, though the older Zaroff has more than Rainsford.

As the story opens, they both share a callousness about the game they hunt. As Rainsford asks: "Who cares how a jaguar feels?"

Despite these likenesses, the men differ. Rainsford, an American, appears to have a different moral compass than his host. Zaroff calls hims a "puritan" because of the distinction he makes between animals and humans. For Rainsford, hunting animals is sport while hunting humans is murder. Rainsford puts human beings above all animals, finding humans superior because of the human ability to reason.

In contrast, the Russian Zaroff does not make this sharp distinction. He considers the right kind of animal superior to the "wrong" kind of human. He tells Rainsford,

I hunt the scum of the earth: sailors from tramp ships—lassars, blacks, Chinese, whites, mongrels—a thoroughbred horse or hound is worth more than a score of them.

Rainsford's response shows his different way of thinking:

"But they are men," said Rainsford hotly.

As Rainsford has the experience of being hunted, he transforms. We learn that he "knew now how an animal at bay feels."

Zaroff is more arrogant than Rainsford. Not only does his background as an aristocrat make him feel superior to the mass of mankind, it never occurs to him that if Rainsford "wins" the hunt, he, Zaroff, might die. Zaroff talks about how, if Rainsford is alive in three days, they can have a drink together. Rainsford, however, turns the tables as he kills Zaroff at the story's end.

The ending is ambiguous. When Rainsford sleeps in Zaroff's bed, this may indicate he has become more like him, but such comments as knowing what it feels like to be hunted suggest, in contrast, that he is becoming more, not less, empathic. In either case, he is a more complex character than Zaroff because he has not yet hardened into what he will become.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Rainsford and General Zaroff both enjoy nothing better than to participate in a good, long hunt. The thrill of the chase is everything for these men, a chance to prove themselves against nature's predators, red in tooth and claw. In the moral universe which Rainsford and Zaroff inhabit, there are only hunters and hunted, and it's essential that you're one of the former and not the latter.

The big difference between the two men is that Zaroff enjoys hunting human quarry, whereas Rainsford's generally satisfied with bagging dumb animals that can't shoot back. However, that changes dramatically over the course of the story. Rainsford's immense satisfaction at what we presume is his killing of Zaroff indicates that he too now gains as much enjoyment from killing another human as he does from slaughtering animals. Thanks to his terrifying adventure on Ship-Trap Island, Rainsford now knows that it feels like to be the hunted one. But far from turning him into a man of peace who's seen the error of his ways, he's now morphed into Zaroff. And that's pretty scary.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Rainsford and General Zaroff are both talented, accomplished hunters in the short story "The Most Dangerous Game." Initially, both characters seem to share the same philosophy toward hunting. At the beginning of the story, Rainsford tells Whitney, "The world is made up of two classes—the hunters and the huntees" (Connell, 1). General Zaroff takes the same approach toward hunting but in a more fanatical, unsympathetic way. General Zaroff and Rainsford are both wealthy individuals who can afford to travel to exotic places and hunt big-game animals. Both characters also enjoy literature about hunting. When the two first meet, Zaroff tells Rainsford that he has read his book about hunting snow leopards in Tibet, before elaborating on his extensive library of hunting literature.

Despite many of their similarities, General Zaroff and Rainsford have drastically different viewpoints concerning civilization and morality. While Rainsford finds it extremely troubling and horrific that General Zaroff hunts defenseless humans on his island, Zaroff dismisses Rainsford's concerns by calling him naive. Zaroff views himself as a modern, civilized man, while Rainsford views him as a murderer. Zaroff is also fanatical about hunting and cannot satiate his desire to be challenged in his field. In contrast, Rainsford enjoys hunting but has the ability to limit his desires.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Rainsford and Zaroff share a few common traits, but as the story works toward its climax, they differ more and more.

In common, Rainsford and Zaroff both have an immense interest in the sport of hunting. Rainsford waxes poetically to his shipmate in the opening scenes about the skill and pleasure of the hunt. He shows excitement for his chance to go prove himself against a new query on the trip. In an obvious foreshadow, his shipmate ask him to consider how the jaguar (or animal being hunted) fells, and Rainsford laughs it off without empathy.

Zaroff also shows an extreme interest in hunting from the beginning. He is an expert and loves the hunt. Like Rainsford, he seems to have the wealth and time to partake in his hobby to an extreme degree. Not everyone could charter boats to exotic places to hunt a variety of game. 

The big difference between the men comes between PASSION and FANATICISM. Rainsford passion makes him devote much of his life to hunting and leads to his position in the story. However Zaroff's obsession is much more to the extreme end. He is so fanatical that he becomes less human in his sympathy and empathy for others. He no longer values life in any means because his "game" of hunting the toughest query overrides all else.

Rainsford, experiencing the side of the hunted gains sympathy for the animals he has tracked and killed in his past and sees an ugliness in the extremism Zaroff represents. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team