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Before his experience on the island, Rainsford's character is that of a typical big-game hunter, with no empathy for the prey. He has no need to empathize with the prey, since he is an intelligent man and the animals are not intelligent, or at least not intelligent enough for him to consider them sympathetic equals. Rainsford's ideas on hunting are shown in his conversation with Whitney on the boat:
"The best sport in the world," agreed Rainsford.
"For the hunter," amended Whitney. "Not for the jaguar."
"Don't talk rot, Whitney," said Rainsford. "You're a big-game hunter, not a philosopher. Who cares how a jaguar feels?" (Connell, "The Most Dangerous Game," classicreader.com)
Of course, Rainsford soon finds out exactly how a jaguar feels, although he is intelligent enough to know what the outcome is, not simply the fear of an animal. Even before this, his character equates humans as superior to animals, and is shocked at the idea that humans could hunt other humans for sport, much less rationalize it at a moral level, as does General Zaroff. Rainsford's feelings on hunting are drastically altered by the end of the story; he discovers that being hunted is not as much fun as hunting.
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