The Value of Life in The Most Dangerous Game
He is hunched down in the bushes, a .22-caliber pistol in his hand. His blood-red lips split open in a smile as he watches his prey writhing, blood spouting from the wound, dry green leaves becoming wet crimson. Then, with a terrible pleasure, he places the gun against the skull of his prey and fires one last round. The hunter, brimming with sadism, drags his kill behind him, leaving a trail of blood behind on the ground. Human blood. This premise of man hunting man is one set up by Richard Connell’s short story The Most Dangerous Game.
The dominant theme to this story is that all life is to be respected and preserved. A proof for this is that the protagonist, Rainsford, is at first disrespectful of animals when he hunts. He is then placed into the animal’s role in a twisted hunt, and—due to the horrors he experiences—becomes more respectful. More support to back this claim is that General Zaroff, the epitome of disregard for life, is defeated by Rainsford at the end. However, this is not the most accurate theme of the story, and these examples also support another theme: animals, and life in general, are not respected and never truly will be, and we should all come to terms with this fact.
Let us primarily take into consideration the aspect that Rainsford at first cares not for animals, but his view is altered by his experiences with Zaroff. First, we must prove that Rainsford really did not care for animals. Let us look at the conversation on the boat between Rainsford and Whitney. Here is a quote:
“[...] Great sport, hunting.”
“The best sport in the world,” agreed Rainsford.
“For the hunter,” amended Whitney. “Not for the jaguar.”
“Don’t talk rot, Whitney,” said Rainsford. “[...] Who cares how a jaguar feels?”
From his very words, Rainsford has mentioned an utter contempt of the thought of animals having feelings. He claims that a sport where one goes out to kill animals is the best of all sports, which shows that he did not weigh an animal’s perspective in on the matter. Later, when Whitney suggests that the jaguar might just care about its feelings, Rainsford denies that they have any understanding. Another quote from this conversation gives us Rainsford’s philosophy on life, which is that he believes the world is “made up of two classes—the hunters and the huntees. Luckily, you and I are hunters.” This indicates that he believes in a two-way system, an eat-or-be eaten world, and he’s glad to be an eater; he’s glad that he’s the one killing and not the one being killed. Still, this was before he was being hunted by the general, which is supposedly when his beliefs change.
The second part to this is that supposedly, when Rainsford is being hunted by Zaroff, he empathizes with animals and gains respect for them. This is absurd. Rainsford relates to his situation as still being a hunter,...