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The two men share a similar love for hunting, but Rainsford is a moral man, while Zaroff has a violent, criminal hobby, hunting human beings.
"Zaroff is distinguished by a "cultivated voice," fine clothes, the "singularly handsome" features of an aristocrat—and an obsession for hunting human beings."
"While Rainsford shares both an interest in hunting and a refined nature with Zaroff, he believes Zaroff's sport to be brutal and Zaroff himself to be a murderer."
In "The Most Dangerous Game" by Richard Connell, the characters of Zaroff and Rainsford are not equal. Rainsford has a disadvantage as he realizes quite clearly that he could lose the game and what the consequences of losing would mean. Zaroff, however, has a warped sense of his own invincibility, and that is his downfall.
I have to agree with other editors here. They are equal in the sense that both are excellent hunters. However, it is clear that morally Rainsford is the better man, as he does not agree that the possession of power entitles you to use those weaker than you for your own pleasure. Of course, it is not an equal "game" because Zaroff knows his island far better than Rainsford does and therefore has the advantage.
In terms of the "game" that is played on the island, Zaroff has many advantages over Rainsford. He has dogs, he has Ivan, he is armed. Rainsford has only his wits and a knife. So, the game does not begin as one between two equals. Zaroff is clearly in a superior position.
In terms of skill, Rainsford has a slight advantage. He knows the different traps to set, and his traps do damage. Zaroff is a very good hunter, but because he has not met someone of Rainsford's skill and ability, he has not developed his skills. Sailors, he admits, are very easy to hunt because they are unfamiliar with land.
What makes this story so appealing is that the underdog wins. It's a David and Goliath story, and it works.
In so many areas, it's obvious Rainsford is the better man. General Zaroff was a military leader, a commendable profession even though he was a Cossack, known for ruthlessness in all things. Both men are hunters, so they share many of the same qualities. However, there's a vast difference between them. Rainsford doesn't have much sympathy for people who aren't aggressive--there are only two types of people, he says, the hunters and the hunted. But he had never met Zaroff, who is neither--he's a hunter of men. That makes him worse.
That really depends upon what standards, or from whose point of view, you define "equality".
Zaroff would be able to argue that they are equal. Zaroff and Rainsford are both human and have courage, cunning, and ability to reason, the three things f says make humans the best to hunt. They both have immense experience as hunters, as well.
On the other hand, there are several factors that show them unequal. Zaroff has dogs and weapons to hunt with, Rainsford only a knife. Zaroff has his servant Ivan to help in the hunt, Rainsford has only his cunning, experience, and intellect. Zaroff has intimate knowledge of the island and its many hiding places, Rainsford does not. Zaroff has the advantage of a comfortable bed, good food, and a good night's sleep; Rainsford obviously does not.
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