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

The Most Dangerous Game

by Richard Edward Connell

Start Free Trial

What is the conflict between Rainsford and Whitney in The Most Dangerous Game?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The conflict between Rainsford and Whitney rests in how they view the world. In "The Most Dangerous Game," both men disagree about how the act of hunting affects the hunted. Rainsford argues that the world is divided into two groups: the hunters and the hunted. He maintains that animals (the hunted) have little conception of how the hunt invigorates hunters like himself. Rainsford is convinced that animals do not possess emotional intelligence.

For his part, Whitney disagrees. He maintains that animals do fear pain and death; furthermore, they cherish their own survival. 

Rainsford soon discovers that there is truth in Whitney's words when he becomes "the hunted" on Ship-Trap Island. The island belongs to General Zaroff, who hunts men for sport. Like Rainsford, the General believes that "Life is for the strong, to be lived by the strong, and, if needs be, taken by the strong." General Zaroff basically believes that the weak exist for the pleasure of the strong. Rainsford is, of course, thoroughly scandalized by the General's life philosophy, particularly since he puts men in the place of animals.

Eventually, Rainsford expresses his desire to leave the island, but he is constrained by General Zaroff. The latter proclaims that Rainsford must participate in a three-day hunt. This is how Rainsford becomes "the hunted" and experiences the truth of Whitney's words. He learns that "the hunted" (whether man or beast) fears pain and death and desires to survive above all.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is the conflicts or dissagreements between Rainsford and Whitney?

Whitney is introduced at the beginning of the story.  Both Rainsford and Whitney are expert hunters.  They are going to hunt jaguar in Rio de Janerio and the Amazon.  They both love hunting.

The disagreement they have is Whitney believes that it is great sport for the hunters, but not for the jaguar.  He believes that the animals experience fear "the fear of pain and the fear of death."  Rainsford objects and says,

"This hot weather is making you soft, Whitney.  Be a realist. The word is made up of two classes - the hunters and the hunted.  Luckily, you and I are the hunters." (pg 2)

This statement will haunt Rainsford later when he becomes the hunted.

" Rainsford did not want to believe what his reason told him was true, but the truth was as evident as the sun that had by now pushed through the morning mists.  The general was playing with him! The generals was saving him for another day's sport! The Cossack was the cat; he was the mouse.  Then it was that Rainsford knew the full meaning of terror." ( pg 13)

When Whitney tells him of the superstitions the sailors felt about the island, Rainsford says

"Pure imagination," said Rainsford. "One superstitious sailor can taint the whole ship's company with his fear." (pg 2)

Whitney disagrees and says,

"Maybe.  But sometimes I think sailors have an extra sense that tells them when they are in danger.  Sometimes I think evil is a tangible thing --- with wave lengths, just as sound and light have." (pg 2)

The evil of the island also comes true for Rainsford.  There is a reason the sailors call it Ship Wreck Island.

Whitney is used by the author to introduce the evil of the island and set a standard for Rainsford.  From this conversation we can see how much Rainsford changes through his horrible experience onthe island.  

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on