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The primary themes in Richard Connell's short story, "The Most Dangerous Game," are those of (1) revenge, (2) violence and cruelty, and (3) man's inhumanity against man. The revenge factor doesn't actually appear in the story until the final paragraphs, when Rainsford reappears to begin the hunt anew with Zaroff.
The general sucked in his breath and smiled. "I congratulate you," he said. "You have won the game." Rainsford did not smile. "I am still a beast at bay," he said, in a low, hoarse voice. "Get ready, General Zaroff."
There are many examples of extreme violence, since both Rainsford and Zaroff are big game hunters and speak often of their past.
The general filled both glasses, and said, "God makes some men poets. Some He makes kings, some beggars. Me He made a hunter. My hand was made for the trigger, my father said... When I was only five years old he gave me a little gun, specially made in Moscow for me, to shoot sparrows with. When I shot some of his prize turkeys with it, he did not punish me; he complimented me on my marksmanship. I killed my first bear in the Caucasus when I was ten. My whole life has been one prolonged hunt. I went into the army--it was expected of noblemen's sons--and for a time commanded a division of Cossack cavalry, but my real interest was always the hunt. I have hunted every kind of game in every land. It would be impossible for me to tell you how many animals I have killed."
Zaroff's boredom of hunting animals leads him to hunt an even more dangerous game--the human kind. He deliberately causes ships to wreck upon the island's rocks, captures them, imprisons them, and then murders them.
"Hunting? Great Guns, General Zaroff, what you speak of is murder."
The general laughed with entire good nature. He regarded Rainsford quizzically. "I refuse to believe that so modern and civilized a young man as you seem to be harbors romantic ideas about the value of human life. Surely your experiences in the war--"
"Did not make me condone cold-blooded murder," finished Rainsford stiffly.
Laughter shook the general. "How extraordinarily droll you are!" he said. "One does not expect nowadays to find a young man of the educated class, even in America, with such a naive, and, if I may say so, mid-Victorian point of view. It's like finding a snuffbox in a limousine. Ah, well, doubtless you had Puritan ancestors. So many Americans appear to have had. I'll wager you'll forget your notions when you go hunting with me. You've a genuine new thrill in store for you, Mr. Rainsford."
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