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Themes

When it comes to fear, Rainsford’s character undergoes a pretty dramatic transformation in a short amount of time. He begins by basically dismissing the possibility that animals have the capacity to feel fear when they are hunted. Then he experiences some deep psychological fears himself, quickly realizing that “he had new things to learn about fear.” (2.22) We know that he is prepared to face his fears by the simple fact that he shows up in Zaroff’s bedroom in the end. But wait a second. Rainsford overcomes his fears by killing another human being—something he had earlier identified as “cold-blooded murder” (1.116). What gives?

Questions About Fear

  1. What is Zaroff most afraid of?
  2. Who is the most fearless character in the story?
  3. If Whitney believes animals can experience fear, why does he continue to hunt them? What are the limits of his sympathy?
  4. Why does Rainsford think war is less scary than the hunt?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

By the end of the story, Rainsford is fearless.

Fear is clearly part of the thrill of the hunt, so there’s no way Zaroff is totally fearless.

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