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There is a thin theme in the beginning of the story. Whitney questions Raisford if the animal feels something besides instinctual fear when hunted. Rainsford retorts, "Don't talk rot, Whitney," said Rainsford. "You're a big-game hunter, not a philosopher. Who cares how a jaguar feels?"
Rainsford's view on hunting differs from Zaroff in that he (Rainsford) draws a line at hunting people. Rainsford views this as murder while Zaroff views this as good sport. To Zaroff, humans are simply clever mammals. By the end we can surmise that Rainsford might have a little more empathy for the animal being a beast at bay himself.