What does Rainsford learn from his experience on Ship-Trap Island in "The Most Dangerous Game"?

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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The surprise ending of "The Most Dangerous Game" leaves many questions unanswered about Sanger Rainsford. Surviving the dive from the cliff and emerging in Zaroff's bedroom, the stunned general honors his pledge and announces Rainsford the winner of the game. However, it is Rainsford who decides to continue the hunt, apparently providing Zaroff as "a repast for the hounds." The story ends with Rainsford stating that "He had never slept in a better bed."

Having decried Zaroff's human hunt as murder earlier, was Rainsford himself now a murderer? It was certainly not self-defense, since Zaroff had already declared Rainsford the winner; and, though a killer, the general's honorable nature would have precluded him from denying Rainsford the hospitality of his home. It was Rainsford who demanded that the hunt continue. 

Had Rainsford become enamored with the idea of Zaroff's game? Had he himself found the game fulfilling? Has he lowered himself to Zaroff's level of inhumanity and cruelty? Although fleeing for his life earlier, Rainsford had seemed to take delight in setting his traps and waiting for the result. Now, as tired as he must have been, he was ready to enact revenge upon the man who had tried to kill him. The satisfaction that he felt as he prepared for sleep must have been more than just the softness of the "comfortable bed."

These questions aside, Rainsford had learned that the hunted can indeed feel the fear of pain and the fear of death--something that he had denied when his friend, Whitney, suggested it at the beginning of the story. 

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