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The Most Dangerous Game Character Analysis

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“The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell is a short story portraying American big-game hunter Sanger Rainsford, the protagonist, who is compelled to swim to the shore of Ship-Trap Island, where the antagonist, General Zaroff, hunts him as prey. Rainsford is a dynamic character, who continues self-composed throughout his challenges and considers the world a dichotomy between hunters and hunted. Having survived encounters with dangerous game in exotic hunts, Rainsford applies his past experiences when encountering new challenges. The American hunter, on instinct, “[wrestles] himself out of his clothes” (32) after he plummets into the sea, “[drags] himself from the swirling waters” (37), and tracks “the print of hunting boots” (43) towards people. He also successfully reconstructs a series of traps that he learnt during his service on the frontlines “in France” (192) during World War I. Rainsford’s “Burmese tiger pit” (194) takes the life of one of General Zaroff’s finest dogs; the “Malay man-catcher” (189) injures Zaroff’s shoulder; and the knife-entwined sapling trick kills Ivan, the general’s servant and hunting partner. From Rainsford’s philosophical discussion with his hunting partner Whitney, Rainsford deems the possibility of “the fear of pain and the fear of death” (13) from the jaguar “nonsense” (14), as he believes that “the world is made up of two classes – the hunters and the huntees” (14). It is not until General Zaroff “[is] the cat” (184) and Rainsford “the mouse” (184) does he comprehend “the full meaning of terror” (184). Albeit proclaiming Zaroff’s hunting of humans as “cold-blooded murder” (114), Rainsford’s ability to sleep so easily after killing the general implies that the American hunter has either disregarded his trial of being hunted and reverted back to who he was before he fell off the yacht, or has become more savage than General Zaroff. The way Rainsford undertakes hardships on Ship-Trap Island, incorporating experiences from World War I and big-game hunting, proves that he truly is “the most dangerous game.” Quickly adapting to the jungle environment, Rainsford’s deadly traps and rapid decision making makes him “a foeman worthy of [Zaroff’s] steel” (161). During his few horrific days on the island, Rainsford experiences many ordeals; however, the American hunter’s choosing of murdering General Zaroff over being transported to “the mainland near a town” (165) after winning the game leaves his attitude towards prey controversial. With plausible characterizations of Sanger Rainsford and General Zaroff, “The Most Dangerous Game” depicts human behavior and morality when confronted with the nature of life and death.

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