silhouette of a man with one eye open hiding in the jungle

The Most Dangerous Game

by Richard Edward Connell
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What does Zaroff's speech about strength ("Life is for the strong...) reveal about him and what does he believe about the right to control one's own life?

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General Zaroff is the clear antagonist of "The Most Dangerous Game" by Richard Connell. He is a world-class big-game hunter who has bought an uninhabited island so he can do what he pleases. He is a former soldier, as well, so he is no stranger to death and killing. 

Over the course of their short time together, Zaroff reveals many things about his view of life to his guest, Sanger Rainsford. First he says he has grown bored with hunting, as animals lack the ability to reason and no longer present a challenge to him. Then he calmly explains that he has discovered a new animal to hunt, and of course Rainsford is intrigued--until he finds out that Zaroff is now hunting humans. When he invites Rainsford to hunt with him, Rainsford is appalled and says he is a hunter but he is not a murderer. This is Zaroff's reply:

"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 Zaroff's view, human beings must live according to the same rules as animals in the wild. There, the weaker animals are prey for the stronger, quicker, and smarter animals. He is certain that there are greater and lesser humans, and he, of course, is among the greater. The people he does not value (he lists them) have no value to him or, he thinks, the rest of the world. He is almost doing the world a favor, then, by killing them. One fine horse or one good hunting dog have more value than twenty of these "weak" men, according to him. Zaroff goes even one step further and claims that the weak exist only to give pleasure to the strong, a vile concept when applied to human beings. 

Of course this worldview reveals several important things about the general. First of all, it clearly says he is a psychopath, for it is not natural for men to take pleasure in killing other people for no cause. Second, his views reveal Zaroff as a megalomaniac, believing the world and everything in it is made just for his pleasure. Both of these things make Zaroff a dangerous man, especially for his prey.

So, when Rainsford becomes the hunted, he understands that Zaroff will kill him, because Rainsford is much more prized as a trophy than any of these "weak" humans. If Zaroff can kill one of the "strong" ones, he will be even more confident in his views. Rainsford is in trouble.

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