The conversation at the beginning of "The Most Dangerous Game" between Whitney and Rainsford serves what purpose(s)?

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The conversation between Rainsford and Whitney provides exposition. The setting of the story is established; it will take place on "Ship-Trap Island," a Caribbean island shrouded in mystery with an ominous name. The conversation also provides initial characterization of the story's protagonist, Sanger Rainsford. Readers understand that he is an educated man of means with abundant intelligence and hunting experience. This will make his survival at the hands of the murderous General Zaroff more plausible by the end of the story.

The conversation also provides a bit of irony that first-time readers won't appreciate until the end of the story. Rainsford brushes off Whitney's observation that hunting isn't "the best sport in the world" from the perspective of the prey. Rainsford utters what will later emerge as verbal irony when he tells Whitney "the world is made up of two classes—the hunters and the huntees."

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The conversation between Rainsford and Whitney at the beginning of "The Most Dangerous Game" serves several purposes. First, it serves as exposition, giving the reader some background on the life and occupation of Sanger Rainsford, big game hunter. It also introduces the setting of the story: Ship-Trap Island, a mysterious piece of land somewhere in the Caribbean Sea. The conversation foreshadows some of the later events, particularly about the differences between the hunter and the hunted, and whether the prey can actually feel fear. It creates suspense, with the talk about Ship-Trap: its superstitious nature and the "dread" that is felt by the men, and the blackness and stillness of the night. It also sets the tone for the tale of adventure that follows. The two opposing opinions about the hunter's prey, for which Rainsford feels no sympathy, will soon be put to a test, and Rainsford will find that his initial beliefs are unsubstantiated.

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