What is the overall theme of the story "The Most Dangerous Game?"

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belarafon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One very important theme in "The Most Dangerous Game" is the morality of hunting. Many people hunt animals for sport, without the necessity of hunting for food, and since animals are generally treated as lower beings than humans, hunting for sport is generally condoned by society. However, General Zaroff takes this attitude to its logical endpoint, claiming:

"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. Why should I not use my gift? If I wish to hunt, why should I not?"
(Connell, "The Most Dangerous Game," fiction.eserver.org)

By applying the same logic used to justify hunting animals for sport, Zaroff justifies what most societies would consider outright murder. The juxtaposition of Rainsford's "ethical" hunting of animals and Zaroff's "unethical" hunting of humans questions the basis of logic-based morality. In the end, Rainsford adopts at least a portion of Zaroff's philosophy, returning to kill him rather than seeking escape; his fate afterwards is left ambiguous, and aside from the obvious use of Rainsford as hero and Zaroff as villain there is no concrete conclusion from the author.