What is one of the complex psychological themes with which Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game” deals?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One complex psychological theme is that of the superiority complex; which seems a modified representation of the Ubermensch as presented by Frederich Nietzche. Ubermensch is a German word for a man who is superhuman, or beyond humanity. With this superior human, then, God becomes irrelevant as man does not need to look beyond himself for contentment and satisfaction. 

General Zaroff fits this profile of the man who holds himself superior and beyond the reach of humanity and its laws. He has no use for moral law and God, setting his own rules and finding satisfaction in his life as he has fashioned it. Like for the Ubermensch, "God is dead" for Zaroff since he replaces God, deciding who will live and who will be captured or killed. For instance, the general, dressed in evening clothes at his magnificent dinner of filet mignon, tells his guest, Sanger Rainsford, "I have invented a new sensation." For this sensation, Zaroff adds, "I have had to invent a new animal to hunt." Certainly, in turning sailors and such into prey, Zaroff replaces God as he transforms people into his "inventions." 

When Rainsford is appalled to hear Zaroff talk of men that he hunts as "new animals" and "new sensations,"  he refuses to condone "cold-blooded murder"; in contrast, Zaroff declares,

"Life is for the strong, to be lived by the strong, and, if need 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?"

Clearly, Zaroff perceives himself as a superior human being--an Ubermensch--who chooses to hold men he considers as mere "game," and then hunt them for sport. The immorality of such a "dangerous game" of hunting as his is non-existent because the "dangerous game" are not considered human, but simply the "new animal." Like the Ubermensch, Zaroff holds that "God is dead"; that is, no morality enters into his arrangement as he plays the role of the superior being, who holds life and death in his hands alone.

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The Most Dangerous Game

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