What does Rainsford learn about hunting that he did not understand at the beginning of the story?"The Most Dangerous Game" by Richard Connell
Sanger Rainsford learns two things from his experiences:
1. In the exposition of "The Most Dangerous Game," Rainsford scoffs at his hunting companion, Whitney, who mentions that hunting in the Amazon is only "good sport," for the hunter and not for the jaguar, telling Whitney, "Who cares how a jaguar feels?" However, in the rising action of Connell's narrative, Rainsford becomes the mouse as the general is the cat: "Then it was that Rainsford knewthe full meaning of terror," a terror the jaguar feels.
2. Besides learning what it means to be "an animal at bay," Rainsford comes to apprehend something very surprising about himself. Whereas he has repudiated as murder General Zaroff's hunting of the "ideal animal" whom he finds challenging because of the ability to reason, after he is pursued like a beast of prey, Rainsford outsmarts his predator and arrives in the general's bedroom. There, he battles Zaroff to the death:
He had never slept in a better bed, Rainsford decided.
Now, Sanger Rainsford is guilty of what he has denounced in General Zaroff. Now, Zaroff's earlier words ring true:
"I refuse to believe that so modern and civilized a young man as you seem to be harbors romantic ideas about the value of human life...."
Rainsford learns that he no longer harbors those romantic ideas as he apprehends that he, like Zaroff, has acquired pleasure and excitement from his "most dangerous game."
Rainsford is learning that hunting actually affects the prey. In the beginning of the story, he believed that animals didn't have any feelings. His partner insinuated that they at least knew fear as an emotion. Rainsford brushed that notion off.
Now, as the story continues, Rainsford learns that Zaroff hunts man, and what better man to hunt than a calculating and world-renowned hunter? Thus, Rainsford becomes prey.
Rainsford's notion may still indeed be correct. Many animals hunted today never have time to sense fear when they are being hunted by humans. But the author achieves his purpose by making his reading audience understand the fear and apprehension Rainsford experiences during the game between he and Zaroff.