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The Most Dangerous Game

by Richard Edward Connell

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

In "The Most Dangerous Game," the main external conflict concerns General Zaroff hunting Rainsford throughout Ship-Trap Island, which creates several internal conflicts within Rainsford. For example, Rainsford's terrifying experience causes him to challenge his beliefs regarding life and hunting. Rainsford learns that animals feel terror and pain, and he experiences a moral dilemma about whether or not he should continue to hunt for a living.

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The external conflicts in "The Most Dangerous Game" include Rainsford enduring the dangerous, unfamiliar environment of the Caribbean Sea and Ship-Trap Island as well as his horrifying experience being hunted by General Zaroff. Rainsford's external conflicts create internal conflicts within his character as he struggles to overcome various obstacles while avoiding the evil general. Once Rainsford discovers that Zaroff hunts humans throughout his island for sport and plans on hunting him in the most dangerous game, Rainsford panics and sprints into the forest without a plan. After creating distance from the general, Rainsford struggles to compose himself and repeats, "I must keep my nerve. I must keep my nerve." Eventually, Rainsford settles down and begins thinking clearly. Rainsford is able to control his emotions and begins using his hunting expertise to avoid Zaroff.

The next morning, Rainsford recognizes that Zaroff is playing games with him and saving him for another day of hunting, which is a startling, horrifying discovery. Rainsford once again experiences an internal conflict and tells himself, "I will not lose my nerve. I will not." Being hunted throughout the treacherous island causes Rainsford stress, anxiety, and fear, which he must overcome in order to survive. Rainsford's internal conflict concerns his struggle to compose his nerves and think clearly during the extremely dangerous, tense situation. Fortunately, Rainsford is able to overcome his fear and manages to outwit the general in the most dangerous game.

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The primary external conflict in Connell's short story "The Most Dangerous Game" concerns General Zaroff hunting Sanger Rainsford. This is an example of a man vs. man conflict, and Rainsford is forced to rely on his skills and expertise as a hunter to survive. Several internal conflicts directly stem from Rainsford being hunted throughout Ship-Trap Island. The first internal conflict concerns Rainsford's outlook on life. Before Rainsford lands on Ship-Trap Island, he holds a rather callous view of hunting and has absolutely no sympathy for the animals he kills. On the yacht, Rainsford tells Whitney, "The world is made up of two classes—the hunters and the huntees." After running through the wilderness in an attempt to avoid the maniacal General Zaroff, Rainsford experiences an internal conflict regarding his outlook on life and hunting. Rainsford experiences firsthand the terror animals feel when they are hunted, and Connell writes, "Rainsford knew now how an animal at bay feels." The external conflict of being hunted by Zaroff influences Rainsford to challenge his previous belief that animals do not feel terror or pain during a hunt. This newfound perspective causes Rainsford to experience a moral dilemma. He is a world-renowned hunter who now recognizes that he is causing animals significant terror and pain.

Another internal conflict Rainsford experiences concerns his decision to kill General Zaroff. Initially, Rainsford is against killing human beings and finds Zaroff's deranged game to be repulsive, criminal, and uncivilized. However, Rainsford's frightening experience of being hunted in the wilderness challenges his beliefs and morals. Rainsford recognizes that the general will stop at nothing to murder him but understands that he must kill Zaroff in order to survive. At the end of the story, Rainsford still feels like "a beast at bay" and kills Zaroff in self-defense. Rainsford's difficult decision to kill Zaroff is a direct outcome of being hunted by the general.

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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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