The main characters in "The Most Dangerous Game" are Sanger Rainsford, General Zaroff, Ivan and Whitney.
- Sanger Rainsford is 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 is a well-educated gentleman who has grown bored of hunting animals and has started hunting human beings, which he dubs "the most dangerous game."
- Ivan is General Zaroff’s assistant. He helps orchestrate Zaroff's hunts and tortures men who refuse to be hunted by Zaroff.
- Whitney is Rainsford's hunting companion, whose views on hunting clash with those of Rainsford.
Sanger Rainsford is a well-known hunter from New York. He has written a number of books about hunting, one of which General Zaroff has read. He seems to have traveled extensively while pursuing game to hunt. He has learned a number of tricks from hunters of other nations, such as Uganda. He is resourceful and level-headed. He is physically robust and able to steady his nerves under even the most difficult of situations. He uses tricks he learned in France as a soldier in World War I in order to save his life on Zaroff's island.
Rainsford has good eyes and is an excellent shot. At the beginning of the story, he thinks of these traits simply as beneficial for his hunting, but later they help him in evading General Zaroff when he is hunted. He also moves from being a person who cannot appreciate the fear a hunted animal must feel to being forced to endure that fear himself.
The story offers considerable evidence that Rainsford is an excellent tracker. He also has a strong appreciation for the polite and cosmopolitan qualities of his host, General Zaroff, whom he believes to be elegant. However, he is horrified by the idea that Zaroff might want to hunt humans, arguing that humans can reason. General Zaroff's counterpoint to this is that hunting is only "sporting" if the hunted party can put up a challenge. By the end of the story, Rainsford, who earlier declared that he was no "murderer," has shifted his perspective and kills Zaroff for his own survival.
General Zaroff is the "erect, slender" and well-mannered occupant of the mansion on Ship-Trap Island. A Cossack, the General was previously an officer of the Russian Czar, but was forced to flee Russia after the Revolution. Luckily, he had invested heavily in American securities, which meant he remained wealthy enough to continue his lifelong passion, hunting, around the globe. Eventually, however, he began to find that hunting was no longer interesting to him. At this point, he decided that he would come to Ship-Trap Island and begin hunting a more challenging prey: humans.
Zaroff is an unflappable and cultured man who enjoys the finer things in life. Despite living alone on an island with only his servant for company, he enjoys cocktails before dinner and sleeps in an extremely comfortable bed. He even dresses properly for dinner in evening clothes, and from time to time he sings snatches of opera. To relax, he reads the works of authors such as Marcus Aurelius. He is also evidently excellent at his game of hunting humans, tracking Rainsford easily to his hiding places and often simply toying with him.
Rainsford cannot quite reconcile the sophistication of Zaroff with his murderous ways. Zaroff's perspective is that a sophisticated man could only enjoy hunting a type of game that can "reason," so hunting humans is the more sophisticated form of the sport.
Whitney is Rainsford's hunting companion. The pair are sailing together on a yacht in the Caribbean at the beginning of the story. Although Whitney only appears at the start of the story, he serves an...
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