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The Most Dangerous Game

by Richard Edward Connell

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In "The Most Dangerous Game" by Richard Connell, what does Rainsford say about the two classes of which the world consists? What is his attitude at this point? How do his words become realized in the story?

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"The Most Dangerous Game" by Richard Connell opens with the protagonist, Sanger Rainsford, in a ship on his way to hunt jaguar in the Amazon. He and the ship's captain, Whitney, have a short discussion which becomes quite significant for Rainsford as the story progresses. Both men like to hunt, but Whitney does not think the animals enjoy it. Rainsford insists that hunting is simply a fun sport.

"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?"

"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."

"Nonsense," laughed Rainsford. "This hot weather is making you soft, Whitney. Be a realist. The world is made up of two classes--the hunters and the huntees. Luckily, you and I are hunters."

In Rainsford's world, there are two categories, the hunter and the hunted. Of course, he is referring to humans and animals, but soon he will be in a situation where he will hear his own words echoed to him in a much more sinister way.

After Rainsford falls off the yacht and ends up on Ship-Trap Island, he meets an apparently civilized man named General Zaroff. This man has surrounded himself with every kind of culture, and he is thrilled to have Rainsford as his guest because they are both world-class hunters. What Rainsford eventually learns, as you know, is that Zaroff is now hunting humans. 

He does this both because he is bored and because he feels entitled to hunt those whom he sees as being weak. In an echo of Rainsford's earlier comments, Zaroff explains his philosophy of life:

"Life is for the strong, to be lived by the strong, and, if needs be, taken by the strong. The weak of the world were put here to give the strong pleasure. I am strong. Why should I not use my gift? If I wish to hunt, why should I not? I hunt the scum of the earth: sailors from tramp ships--lassars, blacks, Chinese, whites, mongrels--a thoroughbred horse or hound is worth more than a score of them."

Zaroff uses "strong" and "weak" instead of "hunters" and "huntees," but the essential principle is the same--though if he stopped to consider this Rainsford would find that realization absolutely appalling. Zaroff has taken Rainsford's belief to a new level by adding human beings to the list of creatures to be hunted, and that is what separates the two men. Rainsford's commitment to his own philosophy is tested when he becomes Zaroff's prey, the huntee.

As the hunt progresses, Rainsford does, indeed, fear pain and death, just like the animals he so cavalierly dismissed before he was being hunted. We do not get to hear from him at the end of the hint, but it seems likely that Rainsford's philosophy has changed because of his experience.

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