In "The Most Dangerous Game," critics say "ironically, Zaroff's belief in his invincibility as a hunter weakens him and causes his defeat." Cite evidence from the story to either support or...

In "The Most Dangerous Game," critics say "ironically, Zaroff's belief in his invincibility as a hunter weakens him and causes his defeat." Cite evidence from the story to either support or challenge this statement.

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amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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While Zaroff and Rainsford are having dinner, Zaroff explains why hunting has become so boring to him. He says, "Simply this: hunting had ceased to be what you call a 'sporting proposition.' It had become too easy. I always got my quarry. Always. There is no greater bore than perfection." He hasn't yet told Rainsford that his bright idea to rekindle his passion for hunting is to hunt humans. Zaroff claims that animals rely on instinct while he relies on his skill and his ability to reason. He says, "instinct is no match for reason." He therefore, needs to hunt an animal with the ability to reason. But even hunting prey with reason (humans) he has never lost to a human prey. So, given his record, he doesn't have reason to believe it is likely that he will lose. Therefore, he is correct that, given the mathematics of his perfect record, he will probably win. However, there is evidence to suggest that this proud belief in his own record and abilities as a hunter does lead to his downfall. And this has to do with Rainsford's changing mindset. 

Both men are accomplished hunters. It is the most evenly matched game Zaroff has ever had, yet he still thinks he will win. They both have reason and supreme hunting skills. What sets them apart is that Zaroff is oozing with confidence. Rainsford, for the first time, experiences fear and terror. Note that when he was on the yacht with Whitney, he claimed that the animals feel no fear nor pain. This is poetic justice for Rainsford who now knows that fear. His fear has heightened his senses, and his focused determination to survive gives him an edge over Zaroff. If they are both nearly equal in terms of reason and hunting skills, then this is the variable (difference) between the two of them. 

When Rainsford wins the game, he does not stop playing. He says he is still "a beast at bay." He is therefore still fighting for his life. Some critics will say that Rainsford has become the hunter and there is truth to this. But Rainsford also uses his new knowledge of fear (as the hunted) in order to make him more inclined to vengeance, and thus more inclined to murder another man, a proposition that sickened him when he first arrived the island. He has become hunted and hunter all in one. This is something that Zaroff, in his simplistic dichotomy of the world of hunters and "huntees" does not understand. 

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