The Most Dangerous Game Questions and Answers
by Richard Edward Connell

The Most Dangerous Game book cover
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What is the theme of "The Most Dangerous Game"?

The central theme of "The Most Dangerous Game" is murder. Its main characters, Sangor Rainsford and General Zaroff, are both hunters, and Rainsford justifies killing by claiming that animals can't feel. This logic fails, however, when Zaroff starts hunting humans. In depicting the cruelty of hunting human beings, author Richard Connell raises the question: is murder ever justifiable?

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amy-lepore eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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There are several themes for this short story, but most important among them would be the theme of cruelty and violence, the theme of morality, the theme of individual versus society, and the theme of revenge.

Cruelty and violence are manifest in that Zaroff and his crew purposefully lure people to their lair in order to hunt them down like animals.

Morality comes into play since Rainsford is a renowned hunter in his own right, and he recognizes Zaroff as the author of a book about hunting.  However, Rainsford sees Zaroff as immoral and his "recreational hunting" as murder.  It is not honorable in any way.

Individual versus Society comes into play as the society is Zaroff and the inhabitants and fellow hunters of the island.  They obviously work together to set up the hunt and to trap the hunted...the individual...who is fighting for his life in the ultimate game of survivor.

Revenge is obvious because Rainsford wins the game.  He does what he has to do in order to survive--kill or be killed.  The question is:  is it really revenge or is the result a necessary evil.  Did Rainsford premeditate his actions or was it pure instinct?  As the reader, you alone will have to come to your own conclusions.


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brendawm eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Violence and Cruelty is the main theme of “The Most Dangerous Game” “The violence of his malicious host, General Zaroff, initially shocks Rainsford, but as he fights to stay alive he becomes caught up in Zaroff's game. Zaroff attempts to justify his violence with civilized arguments. Issues of violence and cruelty in "The Most Dangerous Game" exist not only on a literal level but on a symbolic level as well. As Connell directs the reader to sympathize with Rainsford, the reader feels what it is like to be a hunted animal. The story also stimulates an array of questions surrounding the nature of violence. Zaroff seems to enjoy violence intensely and thoroughly. Yet another major theme is Revenge. The conclusion of "The Most Dangerous Game'' inspires many questions, including: Has Rainsford become a murderer just like General Zaroff? How has he changed, and why? Although he won the game, and General Zaroff appeared ready to set him free, Rainsford still killed Zaroff. Zaroff's murder, therefore, is not self-defense, as it would have been before Rainsford won the game. It is either an act of revenge or a killing for sport.

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bmadnick eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I'd like to expand just a bit more on the theme of violence and cruelty. Zaroff enjoys the violence of his hunts for humans, and Rainsford is at first shocked by his knowledge of what Zaroff is doing. Rainsford is famous as a hunter of big game who has previously said that the animals feel nothing when being pursued and killed. Then the reader learns what it feels like to be a hunted animal through Rainsford's fight to stay alive. The author then asks the reader to compare the differences between hunting for animals and hunting humans. Each of us immediately respond that it's worse to hunt humans, but the author wants us to see the cruelty involved in the hunt for any animal, human or not.

Connected to the theme of violence and cruelty is the theme of revenge in the story. Rainsford kills Zaroff, even though Zaroff seems ready to set him free. Does Rainsford kill Zaroff because of what Zaroff put him through? Or, has playing this "game" turned Rainsford into the violent, cruel killer that Zaroff was? He could have had Zaroff punished for his crimes against humanity if he hadn't killed him. Why doesn't Rainsford immediately set the other men (Zaroff's prey) free to eat and to have a restful night's sleep as well? Rainsford knows how these other men feel because he went through the same thing. The theme of violence and cruelty extends beyond Zaroff's hunt for Rainsford. Is violence and cruelty like a contagious disease that spreads to Rainsford? These are the questions the author leaves us with.

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Jamie Wheeler eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The most prevelant theme is that of violence and cruelty, both literally and symbolically.

Literally, against the animals have died in Zaroff's violent hunts and in the way he is trying to murder Rainsford. Symbolically, part of the terror of Connell's novel is the way the reader empathisizes with Rainsford, experiencing with the character the inherent cruetly in Zaroff's "hunt."

You can learn more about the themes, characters, and other literary elements of this novel by visiting the link below.

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ninjapanda | Student

Treat others how you'd wish to be treated (or at least sympathize):
-Beginning = Rainsford disregard of how the animals he hunted had felt was introduced in the conversation between Whiteney and Rainsford

-Later, Rainsford is forced to come into terms with the feeling of being the hunted - experiencing the fear of pain and death wen put into Zaroff's man hunt

When facing a danggerous or difficult situation, remain calm and coordinated - avoid panic:
-As soon as the gates shut behind him, Rainsford ran due to panic of being killed, although ultimately proving useful, having place a distance between Zaroff and him. In the end, he clears his head and begins setting traps, leading trails, using his experience as a hunter to his advantage, and survives - all while being chased by a pyschopathic murderer

ik9744 | Student

Violence and Cruelty, Revenge, and Life is valuable all can be themes for the book.

maria-vivanco | Student

Violence and cruelty and survival 

zumba96 | Student

The main theme is that humans begin to change when it comes down to their survival and that only the strongest survive. Their entire conversation is that of a hunter and the hunted until the end when Rainsford comes to the house then it is hunter vs. hunter. In the end, Rainsford is the stronger one but he's become very animalistic and instinct in his nature to survive. 

parama9000 | Student

Violence begets violence, and there is a contagion for savagery, as can be seen in Zaroff wanting to kill Rainsford, and Rainsford ultimately killing Zaroff.

Also there are elements of "the hunter becoming the hunted".

sharminadiva | Student

i think the theme is 'What seems to be right to one life form is not always right to another.'

unknown-awesomeness | Student

Courage is the theme of this book. Courage is is facing fear and danger with the confidence to believe in yourself. This enables you to beat fear. Rainsford may be a pro-hunter (with his own book written by him) but he is still scared of the fact that General Zaroff is trying to hunt him down and kill him. Rainsford just keeps on going till the end.

cookie-gurl | Student

I feel like my teacher is making theme more complicated then it needs to be she has a rubric of the requirements that the theme needs and what we can not use in it. Its really complicated and hard which you should expect from an advanced class i guess but..... Okay so she is having us write a theme that goes for both Lord of The Flies By William Golding and this. Nothing about survial and things like that. She wants the deeper meaning the underlying truth. But I'm not sure there is one or maybe I don't see it. Maybe...... "The strongest isn't the smartest"

kamran450 | Student

"What goes around comes around"

love-blue | Student

The Theme Could Be BRAVERY..when Rainsford never gave up on his life and believed he can Win the game! so he did.

hannahnicole2452 | Student

People aren't always what you think that are.

veghead497 | Student

Anyone will go to great lengths to maintian their own survival. Good will always conquer evil.

Also, bocenzano are those guidelines I see from Perrine's notes?? :p

sara-e | Student

Humans and animals, both, have feelings.

turkeyroaster66 | Student

The theme I found.... "Fear may bring out the worst in people."

Rainsford is hunted and put through incredible emotional stress, namely fear, leading to him duel with Zaroff. Despite his old inhibitions, he slays him, and then procedes to sleep in the bed. While this could be viewed as a kindness to humanity, he could have captured Zaroff, and then sent him to the mainland to be tried and convicted for his crimes, rather than appointing himself as the judge, jury, and executioner.

wendell14 | Student

a lot of conflicts and susupense


afp | Student

"Every Betrayal Begins with Trust" its a good theme, because Rainsford trusted Zaroff and Zaroff betrayed Rainsford. But what comes around, goes around.

wilfred123 | Student

the theme of the most dangerous game is cruelty and violence.

josefinarod | Student

I say "Don't judge until you can put yourself in another's shoes" That's the message I got from the story

inivsha-nanhsirk | Student

People can turn into animals when let loose

kiki001 | Student

i think you might be looking for "those who live by violence, die by violence"... just guessing :)

angelchild | Student

i think that the grade niners in this conversation should really not say anything. everyone is right in this case! all these are used percisivly and uses the right content of how a theme is made. and i also agree on the cliches! the theme in this short story can be inhumanity, cruelty, empathy; in fact it is all of the above.

bocenzano | Student

As good as these answers are, they don't really follow the requirements of a theme. A theme has 6 requirements. 1. It must be stated in a complete sentence, with a subject and predicate. 2. It should be stated as a generalization about life. 3. You cannot make a theme larger than what is justified by the story using words like "all, always, never, etc." 4. It is the central and unifying concept of a story. 5. Obviously, there is no one way of stating a theme. 6. Avoid cliche statements; for example: you can't judge a book by it's cover. With that, you should be able to come up with a theme on your own.

taytaytay2013 | Student

I believe that piranha was an excellent answer... i relish that very much. it festers me though how Zaroff said that men were just the scum of the earth and a hound or horse was better than them. mea culpa on calling you out on that BTW...

piranha | Student

'Violence and cruelty' is not a theme nor is 'Empathy'. They are great lessons, but a theme is a lesson you (or the character) learns from the story. 'Human life is valuable' would be a theme as would 'the best game is not always the right game' be a real theme. A theme has to be a complete sentence not just one or two words. My english teacher last year got upset with us when we put 'segragation' as a theme for Roll of Thunder Hear my Cry. He did not get upset easily either. I guess my bigger problem is that the teachers and higher educated students were the ones putting the one word themes, not even the 9th graders.

jesse-carter | Student

jamie what is empathisizes? is it even a word? O.o

dreamarie01 | Student

I believe a major theme in this short story is Empathy. When Rainsford and Whitney are speaking in the beginning of the story Rainsford tells him that "The world is made up of two classes- the hunters and the huntees. Luckily you and I are the hunters." At that time, he had no way of knowing what was in store for him. Zaroff made him a "beast at bay" in the end it was the death of Zaroff that helped Rainsford rest and gave him Empathy toward the animals that he hunts.  When Rainsford says, "I am still a beast at bay." he finally realizes that what Whitney said was true and animals do have the feelings that he spoke against. The animals he hunts, he realizes, DO FEAR.

wahdawee | Student

rainsford fell from the ship and went to the island met to the genral.the general sayed to him that he well play with him the most dangerous game but it was brave from rainsford that to agreeed.when he swam to the castle and went to his room and killed him.

imthekid | Student

the best game is not always the right game

jgagnon | Student

Besides the excellent answers given here, I would like to add that one of questions Connell leaves us with is did Rainsford kill Zaroff for revenge or did he kill him to end the hunt once and for all? If this is so, this might explain why Rainsford has the best night's sleep ever. Rainsford is man of higher moral ground. Zaroff set himself away from humanity on Ship-Trap island, where his tainted ideas would keep him away from judgment and having to pay for crimes against humanity. The fact that Rainsford, a noted hunter in his own right, has landed on the island, exhilirates Zaroff, tells Rainsford that Zaroff is so far gone,that the hunt must end. Zaroff may have let Rainsford go, but it was not out of kindness; it was for his own distorted pleasure. Rainsford keenly senses that the man needs to be stopped. Since no one has ever escaped the island, it is up to Rainsford to be judge and jury and end the hunt, once and for all. Perhaps Rainsford has committed an act of kindness unbeknownst to humanity?

austin85burke- | Student

Human life is valuble