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The statement, "He lived a year in a minute," is a hyperbole- an exaggeration used for effect. At this moment, Rainsford is hiding from General Zaroff, who is hunting him. He has built a trap for Zaroff and is nervously waiting for him to fall into it. Because he cannot see where the general is and because there is the possibility that his plan may backfire, he is feeling as though time is at a stand-still.
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