In "The Most Dangerous Game," what is the internal conflict of Rainsford/Zaroff and how does it affect them?

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lrswank eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Let's take a moment to review what an internal conflict is...  

A conflict is the struggle between two opposing forces.  Stories have external conflicts, like character vs. character / character vs. nature / character vs. society / or character vs. himself (outward things he or she does that hurt him/herself).

However, you are asking about internal conflicts, so let's move on to those.

Internal conflicts occur when a character has a decision to make.  The struggle he/she encounters while deciding what to do is an internal conflict.

I like to tell my students that an internal conflict takes place within a character's heart or head. 

Therefore, when considering "The Most Dangerous Game," the most significant internal conflicts occur 

  • when Zaroff decides whether or not to include Rainsford as a peer and fellow hunter of humans or hunt him like he has hunted the other shipwrecked men who have washed up on his island
  • when Rainsford has to decide whether or not to join Zaroff in his hunt(s) as a means to save his own life

We can look into each of these further to prove the depth of their internal conflict.

When considering the first example, the reader knows that Rainsford's presence at Zaroff's table presents to the general a very unique and thrilling circumstance.  Zaroff respects Rainsford's famous hunting skills and has read his books. In his mind, he is likely thinking that Rainsford will understand his new hunting technique if anyone will. His internal conflict is evident when the narrator says, 

"But there was one small trait of the general's that made Rainsford uncomfortable.  Whenever he looked up from his plate he found the general studying him, appraising him narrowly."

Why would he be doing this?  Because he is trying to decide whether Rainsford is the kind of hunter who could appreciate the new form of hunting that he has "invented."  If he is, then Zaroff has found an admirable companion for his new sport; if he is not, then Zaroff will have to treat this fellow hunter with the same disdain that he does all the other men who find themselves shipwrecked upon his island.  It is that contemplation--that decision--that is his internal conflict.

When considering the second example, Raisnford converses with Zaroff about his sport for quite a while, mostly because he cannot believe that he has run into such a man. He calls Zaroff's implication that he hunts humans a "grisly joke."  Further, he says he "will not condone cold-blooded murder." In spite of this protest, and probably because it had little effect on Zaroff, Rainsford has trouble sleeping over night.  This evidence suggests that Rainsford has to decide how he will go about saving his own life: should he join Zaroff, though it literally repulses him, as a means to spare himself?  How will he get himself out of this predicament? This struggle is his internal conflict.

The beauty of internal conflicts is in their link to the human condition--we all have moments when we struggle with what to do and/or how to do it. Sometimes it's our heads that cause our angst, and sometimes it's our hearts.  

For more insight into Richard Connell's "The Most Dangerous Game," see the link below.  

Jessica Akcinar eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Internal conflict happens inside the character: Man vs. Self. An example of internal conflict in "The Most Dangerous Game" is when Rainsford is hiding from Zaroff in the trees and almost loses his nerve. He has to remind himself to keep his cool: "I will not lose my nerve. I will not."

Another example of internal conflict in “The Most Dangerous Game” is Zaroff’s boredom. “There is no greater bore than perfection,” he says. Boredom is a conflict Zaroff tries to overcome through his twisted game. Ultimately, it leads to his demise.

shirleybayona | Student

An internal conflict also in the story is man vs. self when Zaroff tried to satisfy his desire for the death of animals and humans. He does this just to ease his boredom.What he is doing is evil. He allowed himself to be influenced by the devil.

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The Most Dangerous Game

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