One could argue that the primary lesson or moral of the story concerns the distinction between hunting, murder, and self-defense in regards to the way humans justify the act of killing. Before landing on Ship-Trap Island, Sanger Rainsford lacks sympathy for the animals he hunts and has a relatively callous...
One could argue that the primary lesson or moral of the story concerns the distinction between hunting, murder, and self-defense in regards to the way humans justify the act of killing. Before landing on Ship-Trap Island, Sanger Rainsford lacks sympathy for the animals he hunts and has a relatively callous worldview, which justifies hunting. Rainsford tells Whitney,
The world is made up of two classes—the hunters and the huntees. Luckily, you and I are hunters.
Rainsford feels that hunting is justified because as a human, he is superior to animals. Rainsford recognizes that animals lack intellect but does not acknowledge that they experience fear and pain. General Zaroff holds a similar worldview but believes there is no distinction between hunting and murder. After the general informs Rainsford that he hunts humans throughout the island, Zaroff justifies murder by telling him,
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.
Rainsford is disgusted by Zaroff's confession because he values human life and understands the difference between hunting and murder. Rainsford responds to Zaroff's outrageous claim by saying, "Hunting? Great Guns, General Zaroff, what you speak of is murder." Rainsford's worldview recognizes humans as superior beings and he finds it morally reprehensible to take another human life. After surviving the most dangerous game, Rainsford feels like a "beast at bay" and ends up killing Zaroff in a duel.
Although Rainsford's violent actions seem to undermine his morals regarding the distinction between hunting and murder, one could argue that he is acting in self-defense and understands that Zaroff would never stop murdering defenseless humans. To prevent Zaroff from taking his life or murdering anyone else, Rainsford feels justified by acting in self-defense. Overall, Connell explores the morals attached to the ways humans justify killing, which is only acceptable in self-defense and hunting.