Slipping into Clothes & Beds like a Second Skin
“The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell is a short story about the pleasure of the hunt and how consuming it can become. Rainsford quickly finds himself playing the role of a hunted animal after falling off a yacht and being tossed around by the sea overnight until swimming ashore a private island assumed by many to be the home of cannibals. He is no longer the world-renowned hunter with little remorse towards his game, but instead, Rainsford becomes prey himself after meeting General Zaroff, a man seeking a more satisfying opponent to hunt. Connell raises a question about humanity in “The Most Dangerous Game” through the intentional indeterminant ending causing readers to ponder the character progression of Rainsford. While readers do not know what happens to Rainsford, Connell implies that he has assumed the role of General Zaroff and now seeks a more pleasurable hunt as well. Rainsford’s values have become the same as General Zaroff’s.
Early in ‘ The Most Dangerous Game’ General Zaroff makes the passive comment and easy to overlook claim “You will find that my clothes will fit you, I think” (72). This sentence by Zaroff immediately keys the reader into knowing something more is going on than what is seen on the surface. Zaroff is right; his clothing does fit Rainsford correctly. It is highly unlikely that these two men are the same size and stature. Connell uses the fact that clothing is a personal item to reflect the similarities between the two men. Clothing typically reflects individuality, so when Rainsford and Zaroff can wear the same size, Connell is making the argument that they are the same kind of man. Both Rainsford and Zaroff enjoy the power and control that comes with hunting. Both men view hunting as a cure to boredom, and in varying degrees, both Rainsford and Zaroff hold little to no regard to the lives of their prey. Connell does not imply that General Zaroff has been waiting for Rainsford with clothes ready. Instead, Connell expresses the Rainsford can slip into the clothing provided by Zaroff as a second skin. It comes naturally and easy to him. These actions show that Rainsford’s character is already being manipulated to become more like General Zaroff.
Connell furthers the point that Zaroff and Rainsford are the same type of man through the line “I am still a beast at bay… Get ready General Zaroff “,(85). If Rainsford had not made this statement, the reader could create a happy ending instead of the disturbing thought provoking one that implies Rainsford being the predecessor to General Zaroff. This dangerous game cannot end happily for anyone involved. Though the author does not directly state it, the conclusion readers come to is that Rainsford did not plan to leave the island. He wants revenge, but more importantly, Rainsford wants to have had a successful hunt. Either the hunter or the prey must die. It is impossible for the two to both walk away unscathed. Through this Connell shows that society is rapid to condemn others for their actions, but in times of stress, it is easy to morph one’s action into that of the condemned man. Rainsford calls General Zaroff a murderer, but later becomes one himself.
Connell creates an indeterminant ending by having Rainsford say,” He had never slept in a better bed ” (85). The reader does not know for certain if Rainsford ever made it off of the island or if he went on to continue the hunt of man as Zaroff did before him. It is implied that Rainsford has become like Zaroff. There are other beds in the house, but Rainsford decides to sleep in Zaroff’s. Zaroff is dead, so someone must assume his position. This shift in Rainsford’s character is shown as a tangible change through this line. Rainsford started in his own bed as man with questionable morals, but ended in the bed of the corrupt murderer General Zaroff. It is important to consider that Rainsford got a good night’s rest after killing General Zaroff, while for any other man that peaceful sleep would be impossible. Rainsford believes that he has never slept in a better bed, through this Connell clearly expresses that Rainsford now understands why Zaroff hunted man. He does not feel remorse or question his humanity. Rainsford no longer sees Zaroff as a monster, because he himself has lost his humanity.
Even the title “The Most Dangerous Game”, hints that Rainsford and Zaroff are the same. Zaroff was playing a physically dangerous game with the stake of death on the line, but more important the game is dangerous because it creates a cycle. It is dangerous to hunt animals as Rainsford did, but hunting man created a toxic cycle. Being able to strike fear into the heart of any living thing on earth is powerful, being able to outsmart something as cunning as man is even more so. The title “The Most Dangerous Game”, causes readers to ponder what their own game is and whether one is more like General Zaroff or Rainsford. Society defines itself in many different ways without taking the time to wander what complex identity people are stepping into. While this may not be the type of animal or choice of hunting weapon, the “game” can present itself clearly in our technological age anything from rapidly spreading hate propaganda to making death threats online. Because of the indeterminant ending, Connell urges readers to think more about their humanity and at what point they become just as evil as the one they condemned.
Slipping into Clothes & Beds like a Second Skin