The Most Dangerous Game Questions and Answers

Richard Edward Connell

Read real teacher answers to our most interesting The Most Dangerous Game questions.

How is General Zaroff's character believable?

Professional writers have long used a standard technique of creating believable characters by giving them one outstanding trait and one contrasting trait. In the case of General Zaroff, the author has made him a sadistic, merciless man who has grown bored with killing animals and now gets his pleasure and excitement by hunting and killing human beings. Such a man was necessary for the plot of "The Most Dangerous Game." But in order to make his character believable, the author, Richard Edward Connell, has given General Zaroff the old-world manners of a polished aristocrat. This helps to make him seem three-dimensional. He is exceptionally polite, considerate, amiable, polished, generous, intelligent, and well-educated. He treats Rainsford with kindness and courtesy, even though he is planning to kill him. Both sides of Zaroff's character are believable. It is possible for wicked and cruel people to have very good manners. Zaroff may not even feel any hatred for the beasts and humans he kills. He seems to have a high regard for his captive, Sanger Rainsford, just as big-game hunters often appreciate the beauty, grace, and courage of the animals they kill. What is lacking in General Zaroff is a sense of right and wrong. He cannot really empathize with the feelings of others. Perhaps he is devoid of feelings himself, which would make him a sociopath. Some sociopaths are said to be exceptionally likable and charming. This makes it easy for those of them with killer instincts to victimize others and to keep getting away with it for a long time.

How is Sanger Rainsford an example of an English gentleman adventurer?

In the 1920s it was not the United States of America that was the most important country in the world but Great Britain. The British Empire extended all around the world and included huge areas of land such as Canada, Australia, India, and almost half of the African continent, including Egypt. They controlled huge parts of Asia and the Middle East as well as countless islands all around the world, and the British Navy bragged that Britannia ruled the waves, which it did. They were the world superpower until World War II nearly bankrupted Britain and brought the USSR and the USA into the ascendancy. The most popular type of hero in escapist fiction such as "The Most Dangerous Game" was not American but English. Sherlock Holmes was a prototype. Probably the most typical English hero was Bulldog Drummond, who was often described as a "gentleman adventurer" and a "soldier of fortune." Those were the things many men fantasized about being: "gentlemen adventurers" and "soldiers of fortune." The English hero had the whole world to roam in because so much of it was part of the British Empire. A latter-day version of the English gentleman adventurer is the very popular James Bond, who is intelligent, handsome, well-educated, impeccably dressed, sophisticated, at ease in any social situation, chivalrous, totally fearless, always neat, well-tailored, and correctly dressed for whatever occasion. Bond is gainfully employed as a secret agent, but he is working independently almost one hundred percent of the time, so he qualifies as a "soldier of fortune." Many men in America and Europe admired the British because for such a small country they had built a vast empire largely through the activities of upper-class, resourceful men such as those idealized in stereotypical characters like Bulldog Drummond and James Bond. Robert Wilson, the English big-game hunter in Ernest Hemingway's story "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber," is another example of the cool, intrepid English hero. Another, of course, is Lawrence of Arabia. Daniel Dravot aspires to be part of that tradition in Rudyard Kipling's "The Man Who Would Be King."

Sanger Rainsford's nationality is not specified in "The Most Dangerous Game," but he is the stereotypical English gentleman adventurer. He even smokes a pipe, which was a sort of trademark of English gentlemen adventurers and soldiers of fortune. Or at least he did until he let it fall overboard. His chief characteristic is that he is always cool under pressure. Nothing fazes him. He is totally at ease when he meets the maniacal General Zaroff, and he keeps telling himself not to lose his nerve when he is being hunted. That is what is most important to the English hero—to keep a stiff upper lip, to remain cool. And that was what was most admired by other men. Sanger Rainsford is at a huge disadvantage on Zaroff's island, but he proves himself to be calm, cool, courageous, and resourceful, in the best tradition of the English hero. He also has upper-class tastes. He enjoys sleeping in Zaroff's luxurious bed, perhaps after treating himself to a drink and then a long hot bath.