What's the universal meaning of the story, "The Most Dangerous Game"?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In Richard  Connell's short story, "The Most Dangerous Game," the exposition is pregnant with meaning.  For, it points to the universal meaning of the narrative of Sanger Rainsford's mortal combat against General Zaroff, a life-and-death struggle that has gone on since time immemorial. For, ironically, it is Rainsford himself who utters this truth without realizing its terrible significance as he tells his friend Whitney,

Be a realist.  The world is made up of two classes--the hunters and the huntees.  Luckily, you and I are hunters.

The universal meaning of "The Most Dangerous Game" is that, indeed, the world is composed of predators and their prey. The life struggle is one of the strong against the weak, whether it involve sports, business, personal relationships, community, or anything else.  It does not matter how technically developed a country is, how sophisticated its society, how loving its family--there are those who will strive to dominate, even those who will destroy. There are also those who will be victimized because somehow they are vulnerable.

In his wish to extend his "game" one more day, Zaroff makes the mistake of thinking that Rainsford is truly the huntee.  In reality, Rainsford has been forced into this posture; but it is not his by nature. Therefore, as soon as he is afforded the opportunity to resume his true role of predator, Rainsford does so. He indicates this when he tells Zaroff, "I am still a beast at bay."  But, then, he instructs his foe with words of the hunter, "Get ready, General Zaroff." And, they duel, the two predators.

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