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The Most Dangerous Game

by Richard Edward Connell

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What is the theme of "The Most Dangerous Game"?

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The theme of "The Most Dangerous Game" is civilization versus savagery. Its main characters, Sangor Rainsford and General Zaroff, are both hunters, and Rainsford justifies killing by claiming that animals can't feel. This logic fails, however, when Zaroff starts hunting humans. In depicting the cruelty of hunting human beings, author Richard Connell raises the question, is murder of anything ever justifiable?

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The main theme of "The Most Dangerous Game" concerns the ethics of killing living beings. Both Sanger Rainsford and General Zaroff are accomplished hunters who enjoy shooting big game animals. Despite their similar views concerning the ethics of killing defenseless animals, the two main characters stand at opposite ends of the spectrum regarding the value of human life. Rainford's views regarding hunting align with society's accepted standards—he is fine with killing animals but also values human life and views hunting humans as unethical and morally reprehensible. In contrast, Zaroff has no qualms about killing "lesser" human beings and views the most dangerous game (i.e. killing humans) as an exciting sport.

Initially, readers may support Rainsford's views and find Zaroff's debased sport to be appalling. However, Connell subtly raises the question of whether taking a human life is ethical in some circumstances and challenges the reader to examine the ethics of killing living beings in general. Despite Rainsford's moral principles, he takes the lives of two people in the story. Rainsford's decision to kill Zaroff in hand-to-hand combat at the end of the story is particularly nuanced. The tables have turned in Rainsford's favor, and he has the opportunity to leave the island, but he kills Zaroff instead. The reader is forced to question whether his actions were justified.

Rainsford's frightening experience of avoiding Zaroff throughout Ship-Trap Island also raises the question of whether the socially acceptable sport of hunting is ethical. After all, Rainsford sympathizes with animals when he experiences the fear and pain of being hunted. At the end of the story, Rainsford even remarks that he feels like a "beast at bay." The reader is challenged to contemplate Rainsford's initial statement about the world being made up of "two classes—the hunters and the huntees" and assess the value of life in general. Therefore, the main theme Connell explores throughout the story concerns the complex ethics of killing a living being.

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There are several themes for this short story, but most important among them would be the theme of cruelty and violence, the theme of morality, the theme of individual versus society, and the theme of revenge.

Cruelty and violence are manifest in that Zaroff and his crew purposefully lure people to their lair in order to hunt them down like animals.

Morality comes into play since Rainsford is a renowned hunter in his own right, and he recognizes Zaroff as the author of a book about hunting.  However, Rainsford sees Zaroff as immoral and his "recreational hunting" as murder.  It is not honorable in any way.

Individual versus Society comes into play as the society is Zaroff and the inhabitants and fellow hunters of the island.  They obviously work together to set up the hunt and to trap the hunted...the individual...who is fighting for his life in the ultimate game of survivor.

Revenge is obvious because Rainsford wins the game.  He does what he has to do in order to survive--kill or be killed.  The question is:  is it really revenge or is the result a necessary evil.  Did Rainsford premeditate his actions or was it pure instinct?  As the reader, you alone will have to come to your own conclusions.

 

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Violence and Cruelty is the main theme of “The Most Dangerous Game” “The violence of his malicious host, General Zaroff, initially shocks Rainsford, but as he fights to stay alive he becomes caught up in Zaroff's game. Zaroff attempts to justify his violence with civilized arguments. Issues of violence and cruelty in "The Most Dangerous Game" exist not only on a literal level but on a symbolic level as well. As Connell directs the reader to sympathize with Rainsford, the reader feels what it is like to be a hunted animal. The story also stimulates an array of questions surrounding the nature of violence. Zaroff seems to enjoy violence intensely and thoroughly. Yet another major theme is Revenge. The conclusion of "The Most Dangerous Game'' inspires many questions, including: Has Rainsford become a murderer just like General Zaroff? How has he changed, and why? Although he won the game, and General Zaroff appeared ready to set him free, Rainsford still killed Zaroff. Zaroff's murder, therefore, is not self-defense, as it would have been before Rainsford won the game. It is either an act of revenge or a killing for sport.

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I'd like to expand just a bit more on the theme of violence and cruelty. Zaroff enjoys the violence of his hunts for humans, and Rainsford is at first shocked by his knowledge of what Zaroff is doing. Rainsford is famous as a hunter of big game who has previously said that the animals feel nothing when being pursued and killed. Then the reader learns what it feels like to be a hunted animal through Rainsford's fight to stay alive. The author then asks the reader to compare the differences between hunting for animals and hunting humans. Each of us immediately respond that it's worse to hunt humans, but the author wants us to see the cruelty involved in the hunt for any animal, human or not.

Connected to the theme of violence and cruelty is the theme of revenge in the story. Rainsford kills Zaroff, even though Zaroff seems ready to set him free. Does Rainsford kill Zaroff because of what Zaroff put him through? Or, has playing this "game" turned Rainsford into the violent, cruel killer that Zaroff was? He could have had Zaroff punished for his crimes against humanity if he hadn't killed him. Why doesn't Rainsford immediately set the other men (Zaroff's prey) free to eat and to have a restful night's sleep as well? Rainsford knows how these other men feel because he went through the same thing. The theme of violence and cruelty extends beyond Zaroff's hunt for Rainsford. Is violence and cruelty like a contagious disease that spreads to Rainsford? These are the questions the author leaves us with.

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The most prevelant theme is that of violence and cruelty, both literally and symbolically.

Literally, against the animals have died in Zaroff's violent hunts and in the way he is trying to murder Rainsford. Symbolically, part of the terror of Connell's novel is the way the reader empathisizes with Rainsford, experiencing with the character the inherent cruetly in Zaroff's "hunt."

You can learn more about the themes, characters, and other literary elements of this novel by visiting the link below.

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There's often a very thin line between civilization and savagery, and "The Most Dangerous Game" can be seen as an extended meditation on this theme. General Zaroff, the story's antagonist, sees himself as the epitome of urbane sophistication. A wealthy, educated aristocrat living in a large mansion, he appears to be the embodiment of the very best that Western civilization has to offer.

On closer inspection, however, it becomes clear that Zaroff, far from being the civilized chap we initially thought he was, turns out to be a bloodthirsty psychopath who enjoys hunting and killing human beings as much as animals.

What's particularly disturbing about Zaroff is that he's by no means the only Westerner who has blurred the distinction between civilization and savagery. Many of those involved in the colonial enterprise descended to the very depths of depravity while claiming to uphold civilized values. The only difference between such individuals and Zaroff is that Zaroff at least has the decency to be candid about his depraved bloodlust.

Anyone looking to Rainsford for a corrective to this grim picture is in for a major disappointment. For he, too, is not exactly the keeper of the flame for Western civilization. He may be less savage than Zaroff, but that's about it. He too enjoys slaughtering animals; he also gets a real thrill from what appears to be his killing of Zaroff at the very end of the story.

At any rate, there's certainly no sign that Rainsford, after all he's been through, has learned how important it is to uphold the values of civilization against the dark forces of savagery.

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What is the moral or lesson in "The Most Dangerous Game"?

One could argue that the primary lesson or moral of the story concerns the distinction between hunting, murder, and self-defense in regards to the way humans justify the act of killing. Before landing on Ship-Trap Island, Sanger Rainsford lacks sympathy for the animals he hunts and has a relatively callous worldview, which justifies hunting. Rainsford tells Whitney,

The world is made up of two classes—the hunters and the huntees. Luckily, you and I are hunters.

Rainsford feels that hunting is justified because as a human, he is superior to animals. Rainsford recognizes that animals lack intellect but does not acknowledge that they experience fear and pain. General Zaroff holds a similar worldview but believes there is no distinction between hunting and murder. After the general informs Rainsford that he hunts humans throughout the island, Zaroff justifies murder by telling him,

Life is for the strong, to be lived by the strong, and, if needs be, taken by the strong. The weak of the world were put here to give the strong pleasure. I am strong.

Rainsford is disgusted by Zaroff's confession because he values human life and understands the difference between hunting and murder. Rainsford responds to Zaroff's outrageous claim by saying, "Hunting? Great Guns, General Zaroff, what you speak of is murder." Rainsford's worldview recognizes humans as superior beings and he finds it morally reprehensible to take another human life. After surviving the most dangerous game, Rainsford feels like a "beast at bay" and ends up killing Zaroff in a duel.

Although Rainsford's violent actions seem to undermine his morals regarding the distinction between hunting and murder, one could argue that he is acting in self-defense and understands that Zaroff would never stop murdering defenseless humans. To prevent Zaroff from taking his life or murdering anyone else, Rainsford feels justified by acting in self-defense. Overall, Connell explores the morals attached to the ways humans justify killing, which is only acceptable in self-defense and hunting.

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What is the moral or lesson in "The Most Dangerous Game"?

I would argue that the overriding lesson of the story is that human beings are more than just animals, whatever General Zaroff might think. According to him, humans are simply a superior species of animal; nothing more, nothing less. And this species is itself divided between allegedly higher and lower specimens. (No prizes for guessing which subdivision Zaroff thinks he belongs to).

However, even the good guy of the story, Rainsford, appears to share Zaroff's repellent world view. His triumphant killing of Zaroff indicates that he too has internalized the morally reprehensible idea that human beings are just superior animals and that he, as one of the strongest specimens, is thereby entitled to take the life of an inferior specimen (i.e., General Zaroff).

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What is the moral or lesson in "The Most Dangerous Game"?

Richard Connell's classic short story "The Most Dangerous Game" (1924) regards Sanger Rainsford's escape from General Zaroff's game of hunting shipwrecked sailors on his private island. Rainsford initially fails to elude Zaroff but succeeds in killing Zaroff's henchman and one of his dogs. Rainsford eventually dives off a cliff into the sea before surprising Zaroff at his own chateau, thus winning the game.

The principle theme of "The Most Dangerous Game" is humanity's justification for murder. Rainsford argues that animals may be hunted because they cannot feel: when Rainsford's companion Whitney wonders how the jaguar feels about being hunted, Rainsford says "Bah! They've no understanding" (Connell). Zaroff, however, agrees that humans have reason and understanding, but he doesn't affirm the value of human life. While dining with Rainsford, Zaroff says, "I refuse to believe that so modern and civilized a young man as you seem to be harbors romantic ideas about the value of human life. Surely your experiences in the war--" (Connell). Since this story was composed around 1924, Zaroff is most likely referring to World War I. The war has desensitized Zaroff to the value of human life and has led him to believe that the strong may dominate the weak. This notion allows him to murder those trapped on his island while preserving his civilized and sophisticated atmosphere.

At the story's end, Zaroff tells Rainsford that he has won the hunt and will be set free. Rainsford, however, tells Zaroff that he is still "a beast at bay," and Rainsford proceeds to kill him (Connell). Though Rainsford before argued against killing humans, he murders Zaroff without necessity. With this, the story establishes humanity's ability to commit and justify murder in the face of our moral and civil understanding. The lesson of the story is thereby to warn of the instability of humanity's morality.

For more information about "The Most Dangerous Game," please check out the eNotes guide linked below!

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What is the moral or lesson in "The Most Dangerous Game"?

There can be more than one moral or lesson in “The Most Dangerous Game” because it is a story with many themes.  One moral is that you should never underestimate your opponent.  Both Rainsford and Zaroff fall victim to doing this, and they both pay the price.

Rainsford finds himself stranded on an island, and he meets the strange inhabitant.  When he first meets General Zaroff, he does not realize that the man is thinking of hunting him.  He enters his house, has a meal with him, and has a conversation with him before realizing that he is in danger. 

Rainsford scoffs at his hose, and Zaroff responds.

The general shrugged his shoulders and delicately ate a hothouse grape. "As you wish, my friend," he said. "The choice rests entirely with you. But may I not venture to suggest that you will find my idea of sport more diverting than Ivan's?"

Rainsford is shocked when he realizes that Zaroff plans to hunt him.  He did not really consider what Zaroff was capable of.  Now he has to play his dangerous game.  Rainsford finds himself Zaroff’s prey because he did not stop to consider what kind of person Zaroff was.  He underestimated his opponent and paid the price.

 

Now, how does General Zaroff underestimate Rainsford?

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What is the message of "The Most Dangerous Game"?

The story focuses on aspects of morality, specifically that which deals with man's so-called superiority over animals and also,to a lesser extent, man's desire for revenge.

Zaroff is a beast, a brutal murderer who takes pleasure in hunting and killing others for sport. Since he has become bored in hunting animals, he finds human prey more challenging because humans have an intellect and have the ability to reason.

Irrespective of the fact that he gives his prey a head start, Zaroff is, ironically, no better than the beasts he had taken so much pleasure in hunting. He is brutal and ruthless, devoid of compassion, just as much as an animal killing its prey is. As such, being an animal himself, he cannot take the moral 'high ground'. He has, essentialy, lost his humanity.

But does this mean that he should then also be treated in a less humane manner? Have his actions justified Rainsford's act of vengeance? Is Rainsford now Zaroff's moral superior and therefore justified in killing him?

The answer is no. The best that Rainsford should have done was to arrest Zaroff and allow the law to take its course. He assumed the position of judge, jury and executioner - in much the same way as Zaroff did when he hunted his prey, both animal and human.

We cannot justify our own lack of compassion and our brutality because of the misdeeds of others, because then we are just as morally corrupt as they are.

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What is the message of "The Most Dangerous Game"?

Connell's short story "The Most Dangerous Game" raises certain questions about the essence of man. For instance, how successful has civilization been in curbing the predatory instincts in men? Certainly, for all his repulsion of Zaroff, Rainsford is no better than he at the end when he returns to kill Zaroff in his bedroom. Since he has escaped death for two days, he needs but one more day and Zaroff would hold to his rule: "If my quarry eludes me for three whole days, he wins the game" and he is returned to freedom. But, to Rainsford, trying to elude Zaroff for another day, leaves him as the "beast at bay"; apparently, he would rather risk his life as a predator and duel Zaroff, hoping to kill him. And, yet, some could argue that by killing Zaroff, Rainsford is preventing the general from having others with whom to play his "dangerous game." Such an act of "prevention" for more evil, then, raises another question: Are there but "the hunters and the huntees"? Or are they similar? Connell's story challenges the understanding of what constitutes civilization, to be sure.

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What are some major motifs in "The Most Dangerous Game"?

"The Most Dangerous Game" has a strong thread of horror motifs. This motif is first apparent early in the story and only intensifies from there. First, the reader is greeted with a philosophical discussion on what hunting is like for prey, and an even longer discussion about bad feelings and evil. The name "Ship-Trap Island" with its craggy beach builds the mood further in a way that is only solidified by the Gothic appearance of the castle, complete with gargoyles and a huge, silent, threatening man at the door. The dinner is suspiciously lovely, but even then Zaroff makes Rainsford uncomfortable. Of course, there was already talk about bad feelings and what they mean in the beginning of this story, which allows this moment to be the perfect setup for the big reveal during dinner that Zaroff has been hunting humans.

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What is the conflict of "The Most Dangerous Game"?

There are numerous conflicts presented throughout the short story "The Most Dangerous Game."

Man vs. Man: This conflict is depicted by Rainsford's attempts to outwit, avoid, and harm the maniacal General Zaroff, who hunts Rainsford for three days throughout Ship-Trap Island.

Man vs. Nature: This conflict is illustrated by Rainsford's struggles to survive the treacherous environment and landscape of Ship-Trap Island. Rainsford must avoid deadly quicksand, traverse the rough forest, and survive the harsh sea.

Man vs. Society: This conflict is depicted by General Zaroff's struggle to satisfy his savage desire to hunt humans. In society, General Zaroff's affinity for hunting humans is considered taboo and illegal. Therefore, the general is forced to create his own savage environment on the isolated Ship-Trap Island apart from civilization.

Man vs. Self: This conflict is presented by Rainsford's struggles to remain level-headed and overcome his fear. While he is being hunted by the maniacal General Zaroff, Rainsford must remind himself to calm his nerves and think rationally as he desperately tries to avoid the general.

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What is the conflict of "The Most Dangerous Game"?

The answer to your question depends on which part of the story you're reading at the moment. In terms of a short story, conflict is what drives the plot; without some kind of conflict, there is no plot. There are several types of conflict:

  • person vs. person
  • person vs. nature
  • person vs. society
  • person vs. self
  • person vs. technology

In "The Most Dangerous Game," you can find examples of almost all of these types of conflict. When Rainsford and Zaroff are in the midst of their "game," the conflict is person vs. person. When Rainsford falls off yacht and has to swim to shore, the conflict is person vs. nature.

Reread the story and see if you can find other examples of conflict.

 

 

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What is the conflict of "The Most Dangerous Game"?

Rainsford, the protagonist in the short story The Most Dangerous Game, faces several conflicts during his stay on Ship-Trap Island. However, all the smaller conflicts center around the major conflict, which is that Rainsford is stranded on Ship-Trap Island with his antagonist, General Zaroff, who has begun to hunt humans for sport due to the fact that he is bored hunting animals. Rainsford becomes Zaroff's next prey. In order to survive the "game" and not let Zaroff get the better of him, Rainsford must overcome his fear of being caught by the General, must overcome the physical pain he experiences after suffering wounds to his face and hands from making his way through the thick brush of the jungle, and he must overcome his fatigue from trying to elude Zaroff for three days. Rainsford must stay calm and alert to win this "game" and stay alive.

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What are the main themes of "The Most Dangerous Game"?

There are a few central themes in the short story, "The Most Dangerous Game."

First, there is the theme of hunting. This theme is cleverly inverted. Who are the hunters? Who are the hunted? In the beginning of the story Rainsford makes the comment to his friend that there are only two classes - the hunter and the huntee. This seems like a firm category. Humans hunt; animals are hunted. Presumably the difference is the ability to reason. Humans can reason, animals cannot. So, when Zaroff creates a new type of animal to hunt, humans who can reason, this distinction its discarded. In other words, old categories are gone, and new ones emerge.  

Second, there is the theme of competition. Rainsford and Zaroff are engaged in a perverted game of competition. Rainsford engages in this unwillingly, but in the end it is a competition of life and death. Fortunately for Rainsford, he emerges as the victor. 

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What is one of the complex psychological themes with which Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game” deals?

One complex psychological theme is that of the superiority complex; which seems a modified representation of the Ubermensch as presented by Frederich Nietzche. Ubermensch is a German word for a man who is superhuman, or beyond humanity. With this superior human, then, God becomes irrelevant as man does not need to look beyond himself for contentment and satisfaction. 

General Zaroff fits this profile of the man who holds himself superior and beyond the reach of humanity and its laws. He has no use for moral law and God, setting his own rules and finding satisfaction in his life as he has fashioned it. Like for the Ubermensch, "God is dead" for Zaroff since he replaces God, deciding who will live and who will be captured or killed. For instance, the general, dressed in evening clothes at his magnificent dinner of filet mignon, tells his guest, Sanger Rainsford, "I have invented a new sensation." For this sensation, Zaroff adds, "I have had to invent a new animal to hunt." Certainly, in turning sailors and such into prey, Zaroff replaces God as he transforms people into his "inventions." 

When Rainsford is appalled to hear Zaroff talk of men that he hunts as "new animals" and "new sensations,"  he refuses to condone "cold-blooded murder"; in contrast, Zaroff declares,

"Life is for the strong, to be lived by the strong, and, if need be, taken by the strong. The weak of the world were put here to give the strong pleasure. I am strong. Why should I not use my gift?"

Clearly, Zaroff perceives himself as a superior human being--an Ubermensch--who chooses to hold men he considers as mere "game," and then hunt them for sport. The immorality of such a "dangerous game" of hunting as his is non-existent because the "dangerous game" are not considered human, but simply the "new animal." Like the Ubermensch, Zaroff holds that "God is dead"; that is, no morality enters into his arrangement as he plays the role of the superior being, who holds life and death in his hands alone.

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What are all the themes brought out in "The Most Dangerous Game"? Explain using quotes from the story.

The primary themes in Richard Connell's short story, "The Most Dangerous Game," are those of (1) revenge, (2) violence and cruelty, and (3) man's inhumanity against man. The revenge factor doesn't actually appear in the story until the final paragraphs, when Rainsford reappears to begin the hunt anew with Zaroff.

   The general sucked in his breath and smiled. "I congratulate you," he said. "You have won the game."     Rainsford did not smile. "I am still a beast at bay," he said, in a low, hoarse voice. "Get ready, General Zaroff."

There are many examples of extreme violence, since both Rainsford and Zaroff are big game hunters and speak often of their past.

The general filled both glasses, and said, "God makes some men poets. Some He makes kings, some beggars. Me He made a hunter. My hand was made for the trigger, my father said... When I was only five years old he gave me a little gun, specially made in Moscow for me, to shoot sparrows with. When I shot some of his prize turkeys with it, he did not punish me; he complimented me on my marksmanship. I killed my first bear in the Caucasus when I was ten. My whole life has been one prolonged hunt. I went into the army--it was expected of noblemen's sons--and for a time commanded a division of Cossack cavalry, but my real interest was always the hunt. I have hunted every kind of game in every land. It would be impossible for me to tell you how many animals I have killed."

Zaroff's boredom of hunting animals leads him to hunt an even more dangerous game--the human kind. He deliberately causes ships to wreck upon the island's rocks, captures them, imprisons them, and then murders them.

   "Hunting? Great Guns, General Zaroff, what you speak of is murder."
   The general laughed with entire good nature. He regarded Rainsford quizzically. "I refuse to believe that so modern and civilized a young man as you seem to be harbors romantic ideas about the value of human life. Surely your experiences in the war--"
   "Did not make me condone cold-blooded murder," finished Rainsford stiffly.
   Laughter shook the general. "How extraordinarily droll you are!" he said. "One does not expect nowadays to find a young man of the educated class, even in America, with such a naive, and, if I may say so, mid-Victorian point of view. It's like finding a snuffbox in a limousine. Ah, well, doubtless you had Puritan ancestors. So many Americans appear to have had. I'll wager you'll forget your notions when you go hunting with me. You've a genuine new thrill in store for you, Mr. Rainsford."

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What is the theme for "The Most Dangerous Game" by Richard Connell?

As you can tell from the previous posts, this story has more than one theme. I'll add two new themes to the discussion. I believe that this story has a theme about the difference between murder and hunting. Rainsford and Zaroff have opinions on this matter that are polar opposites.  Rainsford sees a clear difference between hunting animals and hunting humans. Rainsford doesn't even see what Zaroff does as hunting. Rainsford sees it as murder.

"Hunting? Great Guns, General Zaroff, what you speak of is murder."

Zaroff, on the other hand, doesn't see what he's doing as murder. He believes that he is hunting. The only difference for Zaroff is that his new prey can reason.

That brings up a second theme. There is a theme about the difference between instinct and reason. This theme is introduced early on in the story. Whitney and Rainsford are both excited about their upcoming hunt. Whitney comments on the fact that the prey are likely to be terrified during the hunt, and Rainsford dismisses the concept that prey can experience emotions and reason.

"Perhaps the jaguar does," observed Whitney.

"Bah! They've no understanding."

This theme is further discussed once Rainsford talks to Zaroff. Zaroff explains that he hunts/murders humans because humans are the only prey available that can reason.

"The animal had nothing but his legs and his instinct. Instinct is no match for reason. . . That is why I use them. It gives me pleasure. They can reason, after a fashion. So they are dangerous."

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What is the theme for "The Most Dangerous Game" by Richard Connell?

I would have to agree with both posters regarding the themes of the text. Outside of those mentioned, I would tend to support that another theme for the short story is one of violence. Both Rainsford and Zaroff exhibit a violent nature (in order to survive). For Rainsford, his survival can be taken literally. As for Zaroff, his survival is based upon his need to hunt the most dangerous game (without this hunt, Zaroff would become bored and not find life worth living). Therefore, one can easily see the violence in the actions of both men.

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What is the theme for "The Most Dangerous Game" by Richard Connell?

A theme can be expressed different ways.  I like to think of a theme as a universal message.  One theme from this story might be "Don't underestimate a person's need to survive."  People will do things that they might never have otherwise done when they have no other choice.

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What is the theme for "The Most Dangerous Game" by Richard Connell?

Revenge is certainly one of the main themes of the short story. Although Rainsford is shocked by Zaroff's decision to hunt human beings, he wants revenge after the ordeal he has been put through. At the end of the story, Rainsford seems satisfied with the outcome.

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What is the moral (or hidden lesson) of the story "The Most Dangerous Game"?

One theme that can be gleaned from this short story is that a person should not judge others until they have shared a similar experience. The saying, "Don't judge others until you've walked a mile in their shoes" comes to mind when discussing the theme of The Most Dangerous Game.

As the story opens on the water, Rainsford is talking to his companion, Whitney about whether or not the animals Rainsford hunts have feelings about being hunted. Whitney feels empathy for the animals hunted and Rainsford believes this is nonsense. He says to her, "there are two classes, the hunters and the huntees." He feels that the game he hunts are put there to serve the purpose of being hunted and they feel neither pain nor fear about being hunted.

As the plot unfolds on Zarrof's unique island and Rainsford is forced to play the "game" he begins to change his feelings about the huntees  because now he has become one.

Rainsford prevails at being a cunning piece of game to hunt and wins Zarrof's game, therefore sending Zarrof to his dogs. Rainsford enjoys his victory bed and peaceful sleep and he is changed at the close of the story because now he too can empathize with game that is hunted. He "walked a mile in the shoes" of a huntee and now he knows that a huntee does in fact experience pain and fear at being hunted down.

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What themes does the author address in "The Most Dangerous Game"?

Here are a few others to consider:

  • Survival of the fittest - The most dangerous game is a game of wit and skill. The story ultimately demonstrates who had more.
  • The concept of the hunt - While Whitney and Rainsford are both still talking on the boat, they refer to the qualities of the quarry... and if a particular quarry has feelings. Then, the tables turned on Rainsford and he became the quarry. This could be a great theme to explore as we all feel like we're in both roles at various times in life. 

Hope that gives you a bit more to think about!

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What themes does the author address in "The Most Dangerous Game"?

I think the main theme (other than just the excitement of the story) is that of civilization -- what does it mean to be civilized?  Zaroff claims to be a very civilized man, but he hunts people.  Does that make him uncivilized?

I think a second important theme is that of revenge and what amount of revenge is morally defensible.  Was it morally okay for Rainsford to kill Zaroff at the end of the story?

A third theme is related to the first -- how does war affect people?  Both Zaroff and Rainsford have been in wars.  You can argue that Zaroff's experiences in the war are to blame for his behavior.

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What is the conflict in "The Most Dangerous Game"?

The primary conflict inThe Most Dangerous Game, is Rainsford vs. Zaroff.  Rainsford fights to survive, as Zaroff hunts him.  Rainsford uses traps he's learned as a hunter himself to slowly gain the advantage and ultimately turn the tables on Zaroff. 

There is also a secondary conflict between Rainsford and himself.  His entire life, Rainsford has been the Hunter (i.e. the Predator), he sees the hunt as a matching of wits between him and his prey, that he almost always wins.  Even if he loses (i.e. what he hunts gets away) he still lives.  Zaroff forces Rainsford to experience being the hunted (i.e. the Prey).  This gives Rainsford a whole new understanding of hunting. 

Zaroff also exposes Rainsford to what Rainsford could become, if he becomes too proficient as a hunter.  Zaroff took to hunting humans because animals didn't pose enough of a challenge anymore.  There was no peril to Zaroff if he "lost," and the animals lacked an intelligence that human prey offered.  This too contributes to Rainsford's internal conflict. 

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What the theme of "The Most Dangerous Game"?

Well, any reader might come out with a different theme from the same work, so you need to remember that when we think about the theme or the message of a particular text it is going to be subjective. However, for me, one of the key themes that I take from this excellent short story is the violence and cruelty of the hunt. I find it very interesting that at the beginning of the story, when Rainsford is talking to Whitney about his excitement of being able to hunt jaguars in South America that they have the following conversation:

"The best sport in the world," agreed Rainsford.

"For the hunter," ammended Whitney. "Not for the jaguar."

"Don't talk rot, Whitney," said Rainsford. "You're a big-game hunter, not a philosopher. Who cares how a jaguar feels?"

"Perhaps the jaguar does," observed Whitney.

"Bah! They've no understanding."

"Even so, I rather think they understand one thing - fear. The fear of pain and the fear of death."

This conversation becomes highly significant in the light of the rest of the story, as Rainsford's easy division of the world into the hunted and the hunter is questioned when it is he who becomes the hunted and is put in the place of the jaguar who he would have been gleefully hunting. To me, this is one of the most important themes of the story as it exposes the view of the hunted rather than the hunter and questions the morality of hunting.

A key question to ask yourself would be how would Rainsford be different after his experience with Zaroff? I personally don't think he would give up hunting, but I do think he would have a far healthier respect for his "prey" and a realisation of what they are going through - because he has been in their position himself.

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What is the overall theme of the story "The Most Dangerous Game"?

One very important theme in "The Most Dangerous Game" is the morality of hunting. Many people hunt animals for sport, without the necessity of hunting for food, and since animals are generally treated as lower beings than humans, hunting for sport is generally condoned by society. However, General Zaroff takes this attitude to its logical endpoint, claiming:

"Life is for the strong, to be lived by the strong, and, if needs be, taken by the strong. The weak of the world were put here to give the strong pleasure. I am strong. Why should I not use my gift? If I wish to hunt, why should I not?"
(Connell, "The Most Dangerous Game," fiction.eserver.org)

By applying the same logic used to justify hunting animals for sport, Zaroff justifies what most societies would consider outright murder. The juxtaposition of Rainsford's "ethical" hunting of animals and Zaroff's "unethical" hunting of humans questions the basis of logic-based morality. In the end, Rainsford adopts at least a portion of Zaroff's philosophy, returning to kill him rather than seeking escape; his fate afterwards is left ambiguous, and aside from the obvious use of Rainsford as hero and Zaroff as villain there is no concrete conclusion from the author.

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What's the universal meaning of the story, "The Most Dangerous Game"?

In Richard  Connell's short story, "The Most Dangerous Game," the exposition is pregnant with meaning.  For, it points to the universal meaning of the narrative of Sanger Rainsford's mortal combat against General Zaroff, a life-and-death struggle that has gone on since time immemorial. For, ironically, it is Rainsford himself who utters this truth without realizing its terrible significance as he tells his friend Whitney,

Be a realist.  The world is made up of two classes--the hunters and the huntees.  Luckily, you and I are hunters.

The universal meaning of "The Most Dangerous Game" is that, indeed, the world is composed of predators and their prey. The life struggle is one of the strong against the weak, whether it involve sports, business, personal relationships, community, or anything else.  It does not matter how technically developed a country is, how sophisticated its society, how loving its family--there are those who will strive to dominate, even those who will destroy. There are also those who will be victimized because somehow they are vulnerable.

In his wish to extend his "game" one more day, Zaroff makes the mistake of thinking that Rainsford is truly the huntee.  In reality, Rainsford has been forced into this posture; but it is not his by nature. Therefore, as soon as he is afforded the opportunity to resume his true role of predator, Rainsford does so. He indicates this when he tells Zaroff, "I am still a beast at bay."  But, then, he instructs his foe with words of the hunter, "Get ready, General Zaroff." And, they duel, the two predators.

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What is the development of the theme in "The Most Dangerous Game"?

VIOLENCE AND CRUELTY.  This theme begins even before Rainsford falls overboard, since we know that he is a big-game hunter heading for his next hunt. The contrast between the cultured lifestyle Zaroff lives within his mansion and the barbaric activity he pursues outdoors makes the realization of his new type of prey even more frightening. When Rainsford refuses to join him in the hunt, Zaroff's choice to hunt him instead reduces Rainsford to the Cossack's own level.

MAN'S INHUMANITY TO MAN.  This theme is similar to the one above. While Zaroff leads the life of leisure in his palatial home, he imprisons shipwrecked sailors to serve as his human prey on his next hunt. Despite the isolated location, Zaroff has devised a plan to wreck passing ships on the rocks, then saving the survivors for his own personal pleasures. 

REVENGE.  Rainsford is reduced to the animal being pursued by the hunter when he refuses to go along with Zaroff on his next hunt. The fear and deprivations he suffers during his three-days of being pursued is strong enough for him to return for the ultimate payback in the end. Winning the game is not enough for him; turning the tables on Zaroff and making him feel what it is like to be hunted before killing him becomes his only goal.

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What is the theme for the short story, "The Most Dangerous Game"?

This is a complex question, because every good work of literature can be read in many different ways.  Therefore, there is not one theme. There are many themes.  In light of this, let me give you a few themes. 

First, the most obvious theme is the relationship between the hunter and the hunted.  In the beginning of the story, Rainsford could only see from the point of view of the hunter.  By the end of the story, Rainsford knew what it meant to be hunted.  

Second, general Zaroff and Ivan introduce another theme - the effects of war.  Both men are Cossacks. Cossacks are known for their military prowess.  More importantly, we can see that war has done something to Zaroff and Ivan.  They no longer value life.  This is why they hunt humans.

Third, another theme surrounds the ideas of reason and instinct.  When Rainsford was on the run from general Zaroff, he had to rely on both reason and instinct.  However, what set him apart was his reason.  This is what made him into a superior hunter. 

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