In "The Most Dangerous Game", what does Rainsford learn from General Zaroff about hunting?

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parkerlee's profile pic

parkerlee | Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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Rainsford is already a pro, but Zaroff teaches him that it is only by using his wits that he will ever manage to escape. Zaroff's insistence on this difference between man and other big game animals makes Rainsford rely primarily on his intelligence during the hunt when his own life is at stake:

"The ideal quarry must have courage, cunning, and, above all, it must be able to reason." 

Since there is no place to run, Rainsford has to find a definitive solution on the island itself. First, he constructs traps, getting rid of the henchman Ivan and one of the dogs; then he profits from the dogs' absence to double back to Zaroff's castle to ambush him when he returns. By strategy he is able to turn the tables and take the offensive role of the "game."

Another lesson Rainsford learns from Zaroff is that there is no place for mercy in the law of the jungle. He catches Zaroff off guard and unarmed and finishes him off without a moment's hesitation. Rainsford loses no sleep over such 'good riddance.' In fact, he can't remember the last time he has slept so well...

mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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From Zaroff, Rainsford learns the emtional power and preterhuman pleasure that the predator feels when he has trapped his prey.  When Rainsford is treed like the escaping prey that he is, he notices that "the sharp eyes of the hunter stopped before they reached the limb where Rainsford lay." Zaroff smiles;

 Rainsford's second thought was even more terrible.  It sent a shudder of cold horror through his whole being.  Why had the general smiled?

Like a cat who toys with a mouse that it could easily kill is Zaroff.  He smiles as he feels the ecstacy of having the power of life over another human being.  From this point on, Rainsford knows what it is to be "a beast at bay."  Then, after he escapes into the sea and returns to face his foe, it is Rainsford who wins "the game":  "He had never slept in a better bed, Rainsford decided."  From his experience in the tree, he now feels what Zaroff felt:  the euphoria of the superior conqueror.

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