The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Edward Connell

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At a Glance

  • Sangor Rainsford, a celebrated hunter and World War I veteran whose resourcefulness is put to the test when he washes up on the island of General Zaroff.
  • General Zaroff, a well-educated gentleman who has grown bored of regular game and has started hunting human beings ("the most dangerous game") for sport.
  • Ivan, General Zaroff’s assistant, who helps him orchestrate hunts and maliciously tortures men who refuse to be hunted by Zaroff.

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Sanger Rainsford

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.” (Read extended character analysis of Sanger Rainsford.)

General Zaroff

General Zaroff is the wealthy, hunting-obsessed owner of Ship-Trap island. He identifies himself as a Cossack—a member of a Russian ethnic group that remained loyal to the Russian monarchy and comprised the majority of its military force. He and Ivan fled Russia after “the debacle,” implied to be the 1917 February Revolution, which overthrew the Russian monarchy. General Zaroff and Ivan were both supporters of “the White Czar”—Nicholas II, the last monarch of Russia. (Read extended character analysis of General Zaroff.)


Ivan is General Zaroff’s assistant and the former knouter—or whipper—for the “Great White Czar.” He is described as “the largest man Rainsford had ever seen.” Ivan is deaf and mute, evidently content to serve Zaroff. Zaroff indicates that Ivan is an ideal companion because he has his own penchant for violence. Whenever one of Zaroff’s prisoners objects to being hunted for sport, Zaroff offers them an alternative: to be subjected to Ivan’s “ideas of sport”—which are implied to be torture. Ivan is later killed by one of Rainsford’s traps during the hunt, much to Zaroff’s chagrin.


Whitney is Rainsford’s friend and hunting companion. He and Rainsford are traveling to Rio de Janeiro to hunt Jaguars when Rainsford falls from the yacht. Whitney seems to be more empathetic towards animals than Rainsford is, noting that hunting is far less fun for the prey than the hunter. His opinions contrast with those of Rainsford, who asserts that the world is divided between hunters and huntees, and that animals have “no understanding” of fear and pain. Whitney believes that animals do understand such primal emotions. Whitney also puts more stock in the crew’s superstitions surrounding Ship-Trap island, admitting that the ship’s proximity to the island gives him a “sort of sudden dread.”

Themes and Characters

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

A central theme of "The Most Dangerous Game" is hunting. Connell invites the reader to actively and critically reflect on hunting as a sport, as a way of life, and as a metaphor for man's inherently violent and primitive nature.

The moral and political climate in the world during the years immediately following WWI influenced and contributed to both the meaning and impact of this story. At the time "The Most Dangerous Game" was written, big game hunting was a sport promoted and enjoyed by many of the world's powerful and elite. Notable among these famous hunters was President Theodore Roosevelt, who pursued the pastime with a zealous passion. Roosevelt hunted and killed an impressive variety of animals in incredible numbers. He led many widely publicized hunting expeditions around the globe. Grand hunting expeditions were common in South America during this period, and the jaguar was a common and highly prized trophy. Roosevelt himself participated in one such safari. On the other hand, Roosevelt is also remembered as a great conservationist, using his power to establish the National Park Service, preserving many...

(The entire section is 1,829 words.)