The protagonist, Sanger Rainsford, is an adventurous big-game hunter who confronts the nature of life and death for the first time in his life during his few frightening days on Ship-Trap Island. Calm and composed, Rainsford coolly handles any challenge, be it falling overboard in the middle of the night or having to swim several miles to reach the shore. He’s survived numerous near-death experiences, from fighting on the frontlines during World War I to hunting dangerous animals in some of the world’s most exotic locales. Rainsford’s wartime experiences have reinforced his ultimate belief in the primacy of human life and the respect it deserves. Only during Zaroff’s relentless final pursuit does Rainsford truly feel fear and his own primal instinct to survive.
The long-term ramifications of Rainsford’s harrowing ordeal remain indeterminate and unresolved, however, because Connell purposefully chooses to leave any transformation in Rainsford’s character uncharted. Although Connell suggests that Rainsford now empathizes with the creatures he has hunted in the past, it is uncertain whether he will discontinue hunting in the future. On one hand, Rainsford could possibly abandon hunting altogether or at least approach it with a new respect for his prey. Conversely, Rainsford’s ability to sleep so soundly after killing Zaroff may suggest that he has become even more ruthless or hasn’t undergone any significant transformation at all.