Richard Connell’s “The most dangerous game” is a very exciting story of a manhunt. This story made me think about the morality of hunting: Humans are the cleverest creatures on earth, but does it give them a license to kill the other animals and even human beings weaker than themselves? I give below a short summary of the story to set the scene and then I will explore the ethics involved in hunting as a sport. “The Most Dangerous Game” presents the story of a hunter, General Zaroff, who finds hunting human beings as the most dangerous and fascinating sport.
He likes hunting humans because human beings, unlike the other animals, can reason better and so provide a richer thrill for the hunter. He does not think hunting human beings is an immoral act because he believes in the theory of might is right and that the strong have the right to kill the weak. However in the story General Zarofffails to hunt down Rainsford, who had the ill fortune to accidentally slip overboard a yacht and swim to the shore, seek shelter in the general’s chateau in the midst of a jungle, and become General Zaroff’s quarry for three days. Nevertheless, Rainsford, who believes it is immoral to hunt human beings, was clever and desperate–he gave General Zaroff the slip in the manhunt and killed the General. So The hunter who craved to pit his wits against the victim’s wits for the Sake of excitement met his end.
In my opinion Rainsford, who was also a great hunter, learned the valuable lesson that it is cruel and immoral to hunt innocent animals for the sake of mere excitement and that hunting is not the best, as he formerly believed, but the worst sport in the world. He knew full well what it meant to feel the fear of pain and the fear of death. General Zaroff believed in the law of the jungle, that is, Might is right. So he felt there was nothing wrong in killing animals and even low-bred or weak human beings for excitement. According to him,the earth belonged to the strong and only they are fit to survive. To be weak is to forfeit the right to exist.
However, this theory can be challenged in several ways. First And foremost, what is strength? It does not necessarily mean physical strength. A strong creature like the elephant is tamed and domesticated by a human who is relatively a weaker creature. If to be strong is to be clever, then a fox may be stronger than a lion. If strength lies in wisdom, an ant probably is no less wise than even a human being.
So it is very difficult to say who are the fit and who have the right to survive. Furthermore, there is no reason whatsoever to claim the right of the strong to kill the weak. The weak have the right to live and many weak creatures thrive splendidly. Darwin’s theory of evolution teaches us that in the struggle For existence only the fit survive.
But it does not tell us that the Weak are unfit. As a matter of fact, many strong creatures like mammoths and dinosaurs failed in the struggle for existence and became extinct, while puny and weak creatures like the cockroach or the common fly are living and flourishing. This proves that it is not physical strength that guarantees fitness and the license to live. Survival is a more complicated affair than mere strength. If we look at the history of evolution we see that human Beings have been very successful in the struggle for existence.
One of the reasons for this may be that man does not live by bread alone and that human society has developed a set of civilizing virtues like charity, kindness, and morality. We have been taught that it is immoral to destroy life. We have no right to destroy what we cannot create, and other animals are our fellow creatures. Our knowledge of ecology also teaches us that by killing animals we may be tampering with the delicate ecosystem and inviting our own destruction. Human beings are probably the most intelligent creatures on earth.
That is why they have a great responsibility of keeping intact the life of the earth. Indiscriminate killing for sport is uncivilized and anti-intellectual.