What is mounted around General Zaroff's dining room in "The Most Dangerous Game"? why does the author mention this detail?

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Mounted on the walls of the enormous chateau of General Zaroff in Richard Connell’s short story “The Most Dangerous Game” are the heads of animals the general has killed during his myriad hunting expeditions. Connell’s story is a morality tale to a degree in which the protagonist, ...

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Mounted on the walls of the enormous chateau of General Zaroff in Richard Connell’s short story “The Most Dangerous Game” are the heads of animals the general has killed during his myriad hunting expeditions. Connell’s story is a morality tale to a degree in which the protagonist, Sanger Rainsford, is taught a valuable lesson about the value of life—not just human life, but all life. Early in “The Most Dangerous Game,” Rainsford and his friend Whitney are cruising on a yacht down the coast of South America. The two men, accomplished hunters, discuss the thrill and rigors of hunting great game, with Rainsford noticeably far more ambivalent about the ordeals experienced by their prey. It was not by accident that Connell included in his story this exchange in which Whitney expresses empathy for the animals they hunt while his friend rejects any notion of humanity, stating, “You’re a big-game hunter, not a philosopher.” Whitney does not back down, suggesting that the hunters’ prey “understand one thing—fear. The fear of pain and the fear of death.” Rainsford, adhering to his ethically challenged approach to hunting retorts, “Be a realist. The world is made up of two classes—the hunters and the huntees.”

This conversation serves to establish the moral framework in which the bulk of “The Most Dangerous Game” takes place. As readers discover, Rainsford will soon become the prey of General Zaroff, who has taken to hunting men because of the superior challenge this species represents. Rainsford, of course, had fallen into the sea and washed up on the shore of an island he learns owned and ruled over by the Russian aristocrat. No sooner is Rainsford invited into the general’s home than he observes the numerous wall hangings. As Connell’s omniscient anonymous narrator describes the scene, “about the hall were mounted heads of many animals—lions, tigers, elephants, moose, bears; larger and more perfect specimens Rainsford had never seen.” That, then, is the answer to the first part of the question, what are mounted on the walls of General Zaroff’s home?

The second part of the student’s question—why the author mentions these wall hangings—can be answered by the prominence given the hunting of big game in this story and the macabre twist that will be introduced. The general has grown weary of hunting inferior species and has taken to hunting the sailors whose ships have the misfortune of crashing upon the rocks surrounding the island. The heads mounted on the walls illustrate the general’s passion and success at hunting wild, dangerous animals. There is, however, another passage in “The Most Dangerous Game” about which one can only surmise. As General Zaroff leads his unexpected guest through his mansion, he says to Rainsford, “I want to show you my new collection of heads. Will you come with me to the library?” Connell does not provide a description of the “new collection of heads.” The general’s protracted discussion of his efforts at injecting the thrill of hunting back into the enterprise by choosing a more challenging prey—humans—leads one to conclude that the heads in the library may be those of the general’s human prey.

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In "The Most Dangerous Game," while there is a "medieval magnificence" to the dining room with its oaken panels and high ceiling and expansive table, there are innumerable animals, stuffed, mounted on the walls. These animals are perfect specimens, more perfect than Rainsford had ever seen.  "At the great table the general was sitting alone"--alone with  his jaded pleasures.  Bored with this magnificence, the general seeks prey more "magnificent" than what he has caught.  It is during their dinner that Zaroff reveals to  Rainsford that his "game" is chasing men as prey.

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