Please explain how the external conflicts in “The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell create an internal conflict within Sanger Rainsford.

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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We learn at the beginning opf "The Most Dangerous Game" by Richard Connell that Sanger Rainsford does not believe that animals feel anything when they are hunted because they have no "understanding." Rainsford is on a yacht on his way to hunt jaguar in the Amazon when he has a discussion about this with the ship's captain, Whitney. Whitney is certain the animals understand the fear of pain and death, at least, as they are being hunted. Rainsford quickly dismisses Whitney's view, calling him a philosopher for thinking this way.

"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."

Obviously the primary external conflict in this story is between Rainsford and General Zaroff, who has decided to make Rainsford his prey in a challenging hunt. Literally, Rainsford must fight to save his life, and that is certainly an external conflict for him. The inner conflicts caused by Zaroff hunting him are several. First, Zaroff graciously gives Rainsford the choice between being hunted and being tortured by the formidable Cossack, Ivan. Though it does not seem like much of a choice, it is still a choice--and that is exactly what an internal conflict is, having to make a choice.

A second choice/conflict is more implied that explicit: will Rainsford do whatever he has to in order to survive this ordeal of being hunted? While he is certainly going to do whatever he can to save his own life, he must decide if he is willing to kill Zaroff if it means saving his own life. Again, this may not sound like much of a choice, but it is a weighty thing to kill another human being--unless you are the same kind of person as General Zaroff and Ivan, of course. And that is the crux of Rainsford's choice: will he be like them or will he choose something different. 

We know what Rainsford chose, but we can assume that he spent his three days of being hunted wondering both how he was going to save himself (another kind of internal conflict) and what he would do if he had to kill Zaroff to stay allive. He was the hunted and he did feel the fear of pain and the fear of death, though he once scoffed at Whitney for believing this. Having to change your mind about something, especially something you were so certain about, is yet another kind of internal conflict. 

All of Rainsford's internal conflicts are caused by the one external conflict: being hunted by the madman, General Zaroff.

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