What is the theme for "The Most Dangerous Game" by Richard Connell?  

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

As you can tell from the previous posts, this story has more than one theme. I'll add two new themes to the discussion. I believe that this story has a theme about the difference between murder and hunting. Rainsford and Zaroff have opinions on this matter that are polar opposites.  Rainsford sees a clear difference between hunting animals and hunting humans. Rainsford doesn't even see what Zaroff does as hunting. Rainsford sees it as murder.

"Hunting? Great Guns, General Zaroff, what you speak of is murder."

Zaroff, on the other hand, doesn't see what he's doing as murder. He believes that he is hunting. The only difference for Zaroff is that his new prey can reason.

That brings up a second theme. There is a theme about the difference between instinct and reason. This theme is introduced early on in the story. Whitney and Rainsford are both excited about their upcoming hunt. Whitney comments on the fact that the prey are likely to be terrified during the hunt, and Rainsford dismisses the concept that prey can experience emotions and reason.

"Perhaps the jaguar does," observed Whitney.

"Bah! They've no understanding."

This theme is further discussed once Rainsford talks to Zaroff. Zaroff explains that he hunts/murders humans because humans are the only prey available that can reason.

"The animal had nothing but his legs and his instinct. Instinct is no match for reason. . . That is why I use them. It gives me pleasure. They can reason, after a fashion. So they are dangerous."

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I would have to agree with both posters regarding the themes of the text. Outside of those mentioned, I would tend to support that another theme for the short story is one of violence. Both Rainsford and Zaroff exhibit a violent nature (in order to survive). For Rainsford, his survival can be taken literally. As for Zaroff, his survival is based upon his need to hunt the most dangerous game (without this hunt, Zaroff would become bored and not find life worth living). Therefore, one can easily see the violence in the actions of both men.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

A theme can be expressed different ways.  I like to think of a theme as a universal message.  One theme from this story might be "Don't underestimate a person's need to survive."  People will do things that they might never have otherwise done when they have no other choice.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Revenge is certainly one of the main themes of the short story. Although Rainsford is shocked by Zaroff's decision to hunt human beings, he wants revenge after the ordeal he has been put through. At the end of the story, Rainsford seems satisfied with the outcome.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial