How is Rainsford's attitude in conflict with Whitney's?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Sanger Rainsford disagrees completely with Whitney's sympathy for the animals that they hunt. He reduces the hunt to the "hunters and the huntees."

In the exposition of Richard Connell's suspenseful short story, "The Most Dangerous Game," the main character, Rainsford, sits with his hunting-friend named Whitney on deck of their ship on a moonless Caribbean night. With subtle foreshadowing of the ironic twist to this story, Rainsford and Whitney discuss their approaching hunt for jaguars "up the Amazon." 

Whitney remarks that hunting is great sport, and Rainsford concurs, "The best sport in the world." But, Whitney clarifies this remark as only the best for the hunter, not for the jaguar. Rainsford counters,

"Don't talk rot, Whitney...You're a big-game hunter, not a philosopher. Who cares how a jaguar feels?"
"Perhaps the jaguar does," observed Whitney.
"Bah! They've no understanding."
"Even so, I rather think they understand one thing--fear. The fear of pain and the fear of death."

Clearly, then, Rainsford and Whitney differ in their concern regarding the prey of the hunt. While Rainsford does not care in the least how the hunted animal feels, whether it panics or is terrorized or in pain or dies, Whitney sympathizes with the hunted animal, recognizing that it feels the agonizing fears of pain and death. 

Ironically, Rainsford later becomes one of the "huntees" and, then, he himself experiences first-hand the terror of the "beast at bay" and, thus, acquires a new understanding, an understanding that Whitney has exhibited at the beginning.  

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