The Most Dangerous Game: A Hunt For Morality
Albert Einstein once said, “Force always attracts men of low morality.” This statement illustrates the idea that men with low values or standards will often use force to build up a feeling of dominance which also makes someone oblivious to inhumane actions. General Zaroff is a perfect example of this type of man. In Richard Connell’s short story, “The Most Dangerous Game,” the author shows that Zaroff’s power demands him to use force to control the lives of other people. Rainsford stumbles upon Ship Trap Island and meets General Zaroff. Zaroff informs Rainsford that he will be part of his game. Rainsford seems to be the character that is affected by Zaroff’s forceful and demanding actions. Although Rainsford and Zaroff are skilled hunters with similar personalities, their set of morals and the way they respect others are very different.
Though they have many differences, Rainsford and Zaroff have very similar personalities. Early in the story Rainsford states. “‘The best sport in the world’” (Connell 40). Rainsford’s statement has significance because he is referring to his love of hunting. His love for an intense hunt illustrates his desire for a thrill and entertainment on each of his adventures. While on the yacht, Rainsford tells Whitney, “‘You’re a big-game hunter, not a philosopher. Who cares how the jaguar feels’” (Connell 40). This statement clearly shows Rainsford’s thoughts and views on hunting. It is obvious that Rainsford shows a lack of concern and respect for the animals he hunts because he feels that he is the superior species and abuses his dominance which makes him disregard and feelings of the less superior animal. Zaroff shares many of these characteristics as well. When speaking with Rainsford, Zaroff declares, “‘Hunting tigers ceased to interest me some years ago. I exhausted their possibilities you see. No thrill left in tigers, no real danger. I live for danger, Mr. Rainsford’” (Connell 47). Zaroff is expressing that he needs thrill and danger to make hunting an enjoyable activity just as Rainsford does. He also says that once he finds no more pleasure in hunting certain game, he needs to move on to a more challenging competition to relish the hunt. Zaroff then says to Rainsford, “‘That is why I use them. It gives me pleasure’” (Connell 50). This quote is significant because it shows the shallowness and lack of respect Zaroff has for the creatures he kills. The quote helps us realize that Zaroff is only using the creatures for personal enjoyment, with no intention of the creature’s feelings. Therefore, Rainsford and Zaroff both share the love of an exciting hunt. Also, each character has no sympathy or regard to their game’s suffering and misfortune.
For the reader to understand the reasoning behind the actions of Zaroff and Rainsford they must first recognize each character’s moral values. Like Rainsford, Zaroff has no concern for the lives of the animals he hunts. Zaroff, though, takes his lack of concern of animals and turns it into an extreme as he evolves to have no concern for the lives of men. After revealing to Rainsford his hunting philosophy, 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…’” (Connell 49). Zaroff’s message in the quote deeply emphasizes his immorality and corruption. To any reasonable human being, including Rainsford, the idea of murdering men for personal enjoyment seems absolutely absurd. To Zaroff, though, this idea is perfectly acceptable, and perhaps should be expected for an educated man of the upper-class. On the other hand, Rainsford believes killing humans in place of animals is not hunting at all; it is strictly murder. Rainsford express his objection to Zaroff’s thinking by exclaiming, “‘Hunting? Good God, General Zaroff what you speak of is murder’”(Connell 49). In contrast to Zaroff’s view on hunting humans, Rainsford believes there is no exception to cold-blooded murder. In essence, Zarroff seems completely blinded from the reality of his inhumanity and brutality because all he has ever known is the intensity of the hunt. Throughout the characters’ argument, Zaroff constantly denies any form of cruelty and indecency in his actions; he only recognizes it as hunting and never murder. For this reason, it is clear that Rainsford has a significantly higher level of morality and values human life far more than General Zaroff. Perhaps the greatest difference between Zaroff and Rainsford can be found in the way each of the characters respect people.
Zaroff not only gets a thrill from killing other men as a way of hunting, but he also shows no respect for a person’s backgrounds or ethnicity. Zaroff, when speaking about Ivan, he tells Rainsford, ‘“A simple fellow, but I’m afraid, like all his race, a bit of a savage’” (Connell 44). Ivan is a Russian Cossack, and this claim about him illustrates Zaroff’s view on Cossacks as savages. Zaroff also makes a point that not all men are equal; some men are simply better than others. Zaroff tells Rainsford, “‘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’” (Connell 49). Zaroff is telling Rainsford that men of the higher class, or ‘the strong,’ are more important to civilization, and that they should take the world from the weak. Zaroff’s most unreasonable point is seen in this statement: “‘I hunt the scum of the earth–sailors from ship tramps–lascars, blacks, Chinese, whites, mongrels–a thoroughbred horse or hound is worth more than a score of them’” (Connell 49). Zaroff’s racism and self pride is seen through this quote. Zaroff refers to almost anyone who is not a Russian as ‘the scum of the earth.’ He also says that in some cases a horse or hound is more valuable than the lives of any sailor, black man, Chinese man, or any white man. These points clearly show that Zaroff believes that Russian is the elite race and superior to the race or ethnicity of any other man. Throughout all of Zaroff’s racist comments, Rainsford strongly emphasizes the fact that they are still men. Following one of Zaroff’s statements Rainsford exclaims, “‘But they are men”’(Connell 49). Rainsford had begun to get angry at Zaroff’s ridiculous comments and reveals his strong disagreements with Zaroff. This also shows that Rainsford believes no matter anyone’s race or background, no one deserves to be thrown off their boat and forced to battle a vicious man on an island for three days. After realizing the thoughts of each character one can conclude that Zaroff and Rainsford have different amounts of respect for people. Zaroff thinks he is better than all other people, but Rainsford holds on to the idea that men are men and should be treated with the same level of respect.
In Richard Connell’s short story, “The Most Dangerous Game,” he emphasizes that Rainsford and Zaroff both have outstanding hunting skill and similar personalities, but each character proves to maintain different ideals about morality and their treatment towards others. Zaroff and Rainsford share a similar personality because they both have a love for hunting and live for the thrill and excitement that goes with it. Each character also has little regard for the animals they kill in their hunts. Rainsford, though, values human life more than Zaroff. Rainsford is furious that Zaroff thinks it is okay to kill men because Zaroff only sees men as his hunting game. Rainsford also has more respect and is more accepting of all types of men. Zaroff is a racist and places himself at a higher value than other men. Furthermore, though they have a common love for hunting, Rainsford and Zaroff’s major difference in human morality outweighs any other similarity. Their diverse views act as a type of fuel for Rainsford as he is determined to put an end to Zaroff’s inhumane madness. Ultimately, Rainsford and Zaroff are almost nothing alike because of Zaroff’s such barbaric thoughts and action, therefore, Einstein proves to be correct: force does attract men of low morality.
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