Do you agree with General Zaroff that "life is for the strong"? Does the author agree with him? How do you know?

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mercut1469 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When General Zaroff explains to Rainsford why he feels justified in hunting men he is echoing the Social Darwinian theories of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Social Darwinists used the biological theories of Charles Darwin to claim that certain elements of society were inferior to others. They focused on Darwin's idea of natural selection and argued that since they were the fittest and the strongest they could basically do whatever they liked. Zaroff makes it clear that, because he grew up the rich son of Russian nobility, he believes himself to be superior to the men he hunts:

"Life is for the strong, to be lived by the strong, and, if needs 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? If I wish to hunt, why should I not? I hunt the scum of the earth: sailors from tramp ships—lassars, blacks, Chinese, whites, mongrels—a thoroughbred horse or hound is worth more than a score of them."

In most circles Social Darwinism has been totally discredited, especially after the Holocaust in which the Nazis used Darwinian theory as the rationale for exterminating six million Jews. To believe that any race of people is superior to another seems sheer folly and quite dangerous in today's world. It is evident that all humans have something to contribute and even the physically weakest sometimes prove to have the largest contributions (think of Mother Teresa or Stephen Hawking).

In the end, it must be argued that the author of "The Most Dangerous Game," Richard Connell, rejects the idea that life is for the strong. Some critics have suggested that Rainsford, since he is sleeping in Zaroff's bed in the story's last sentence, will become another Zaroff. This idea fails to consider that Rainsford thought of himself as a "beast at bay" and had internalized the struggle which any hunted animal experiences. It is quite likely that Rainsford will never hunt again and will deny, as he did at dinner with Zaroff the first night on the island, that hunting men could ever be justified.

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The Most Dangerous Game

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