Extended Character Analysis
Sanger Rainsford is the protagonist of Richard Connell’s short story “The Most Dangerous Game.” Hailing from New York, Rainsford is a World War I veteran as well as a famous hunter and author. At the outset of the story, he is traveling by boat to Rio de Janeiro with his friend Whitney in order to hunt jaguars. As he discusses the nature of hunting with Whitney, Rainsford remarks that “the world is made up of two classes—the hunter and the huntee.”
When Rainsford falls overboard, he initially attempts to swim after the boat. However, he quickly realizes that this is a pointless endeavor and instead swims towards the gunshots that drew his attention earlier. This rational decision highlights Rainsford’s ability to maintain his composure under duress. Even after washing up on the shore of Ship-Trap island naked and starving, he remains self-assured and logical. It is only after hearing about Zaroff’s unorthodox hunting games that Rainsford begins to show concern. He adamantly declines Zaroff’s invitation to join him on a hunt, accusing Zaroff of murder. Zaroff derides him for being prudish, intimating that Rainsford’s distinction between humans and animals is arbitrary and naive.
Rainsford and Zaroff’s ideas about hunting are very similar: they both draw a distinction between hunters and prey and believe that it is the right of the hunter to enjoy the sport of the hunt without questioning the feelings of the prey. Rainsford’s objections to Zaroff’s actions stem from his belief that humans are superior to animals. He fails to notice that his beliefs are otherwise identical to Zaroff’s. The similarity between the two sets of beliefs asks readers to question why some forms of violence are more permissible than others. Zaroff suggests that the only difference between himself and Rainsford is age and experience. Indeed, Zaroff mentions having traveled to South America to hunt jaguars—exactly what Rainsford had been planning to do—only to be disappointed by how easily he found it.
Despite his prior clearheadedness and self-assurance, Rainsford quickly succumbs to instinct and adopts a prey-like mentality at the outset of the hunt. He runs aimlessly in the opposite direction of the chateau, trying to get as far away from Zaroff as possible. However, he eventually recollects his wits and begins strategizing. In a twist of fate, he takes inspiration from animals he has hunted in the past. Rationality is the trait that Zaroff considers most important in humans, but Rainsford often struggles to resist his instincts and think logically. He constantly reminds himself to maintain his “nerve” lest he give in to his more primal instincts.
Through his experience of being hunted by Zaroff, Rainsford is forced to confront the sensations felt by the animals that he himself has hunted. However, whether or not this reversal changes Rainsford’s views about hunting is left ominously ambiguous. The final line of the story suggests that Rainsford kills Zaroff, with Rainsford remarking that Zaroff’s bed is the most comfortable one he has ever slept in. His motives can be interpreted in different ways. By one reading, Rainsford kills Zaroff out of desperation. As he confronts...
(The entire section is 796 words.)