In Connell's "The Most Dangerous Game," why does the author include the philosophical discussion between Whitney and Rainsford at the beginning of the story?
In Connell's "The Most Dangerous Game," Whitney poses a philosophical insight at the beginning of the story that not only foreshadows Rainsford's future plight but also presents an ethical question about hunting and animals. For instance, if animals feel fear while being hunted, does that matter? Should hunters consider an animal's feelings? Rainsford argues that animals "have no understanding." Whitney counters by saying, "Even so, I rather think they understand one thing--fear. The fear of pain and the fear of death." Rainsford disagrees by saying, "Nonsense." This initial philosophical discussion with Whitney sets the story up for Rainsford's ultimate learning experience (foreshadowing), and it can also be revisited and analyzed after Rainsford learns what it does feel like to be hunted like an animal.
Furthermore, because of Whitney's insight, other questions might be posed as well: If animals feel fear and pain, then is it ethical to hunt them? If hunters actually understood what it feels like to be hunted like an animal, would they stop killing altogether? In Rainsford's case, when he learns what it feels like to be hunted like an animal, he completely changes his personal parameters for killing. Rainsford actually extends his personal boundaries from killing animals to allowing himself to kill a man. Ironically, the experience of being hunted like an animal does not teach Rainsford to stop killing; it inspires him to to kill his hunter like a "beast at bay." Therefore, the discussion between Whitney and Rainsford at the beginning of the story is there to foreshadow future events and to bring to light certain questions pertaining to the theme of whether killing is ever ethical or justified. It certainly is food for thought.
The discussion help establish theme, and foreshadows some of what Rainsford will experience on the island. As a hunter, Rainsford is very calloused toward his prey. He doesn't consider what effect being hunted has on the animal, because he assumes that animals have no feeling or real awareness of what is happening to them. This sets the stage for the dehumanizing of Rainsford on the island. Even though he experiences what it is like to be on the hunted side of the game, the ending leaves the assumption that he has only grown more cynical and calloused toward hunting, even if the prey is a rational, thinking, feeling human.