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At first there is an interesting interplay with Sanger Rainsford and General Zaroff as they dine together in the Russian's chateau on Ship-Trap Island. Believing that he has been rescued by the mute, Ivan, the wizened hunter Rainsford ironically senses no threats to his person from the distinguished-looking man with the "cultivated voice" who considers it an honor to welcome such a "celebrated hunter" to his home.
However, after the general's admission that he hunts "more dangerous game" and has "invented a new sensation," Rainsford is appalled,
"But you can't mean---"gasped Rainsford.
"And why not?"
"I can't believe you are serious, General Zaroff. This is a grisly joke."
"Why should I not be serious? I am speaking of hunting."
"Hunting? General Zaroff, what you speak of is murder."
The general scoffs at Rainsford's "mid-Victorian" perspective, and continues expostulating on his theories of the hunt. However, the repulsed Rainsford wishes to remove himself from this brutal man, asking to be excused this night because he is not feeling well. The general tells him that after his long swim to shore of the previous evening, he understands that Rainsford will need a good sleep:"Tomorrow you'll feel like a new man, I'll wager," Zaroff says with hidden irony. "Then we'll hunt, eh? I've one rather promising prospect."
This "promising prospect" turns out to be Rainsford himself. For, the next day when he asks to leave the island, Zaroff rebuffs his request, subtly saying, "you've only just come. You've had no hunting--"
Rainsford shook his head. "No, general...I will not hunt."
General Zaroff shrugs his shoulders very casually, saying "As you wish..." but he adds that Rainsford may wish to consider his only other alternative is being hunted by Ivan with the vicious dogs.
Comprehending the full meaning of Zaroff's words, Rainsford asks, "You don't mean--" and the general responds that he always speaks frankly about hunting. "This is really an inspiration. I drink to a foeman worthy of my steel--at last."
General Zaroff is so polite when speaking with his guest that he seems to invite Rainsford to hunt in the game with him rather than be hunted. First of all, Zaroff explains how he "stocks" his island with men to hunt. Then he divulges the fact that he has a cellar with a few men "training" at the moment. Zaroff even says that he only hunts the "scum" of the earth. The following is how he explains the game to Rainsford:
"'Oh,' said the general, 'I give him a supply of food and an excellent hunting knife. I give him three hours' start. I am to follow, armed only with a pistol of the smallest caliber and range. If my quarry eludes me for three whole days, he wins the game. If I find him'--the general smiled--'he loses.'"
While Zaroff explains how the game goes, Rainsford doesn't realize that he is being told the rules because he will soon be hunted. However, Rainsford does ask what happens when someone refuses to play the game by being hunted. Zaroff's response is as follows:
"I give him his option, of course. He need not play that game if he doesn't wish to. If he does not wish to hunt, I turn him over to Ivan. Ivan once had the honor of serving as official knouter to the Great White Czar, and he has his own ideas of sport.'"
Basically, there are two choices: be hunted by Zaroff or be whipped to death by Ivan. General Zaroff does not forget to inform Rainsford that most men choose to take their chances in the forest rather than with Ivan. So when the moment comes that Rainsford realizes that Zaroff wants to hunt him, he declines to play the game. When General Zaroff reminds Rainsford that his only other option lies with Ivan, Rainsford negotiates a deal for the possibility of him winning the game. Consequently, Zaroff promises to send Rainsford on a boat to the mainland if he lasts three days without dying.
In "The Most Dangerous Game", Zaroff does not give Rainsford a choice. He is either going to partake in the game, or he will die. Rainsford, a celebrated hunter in his own right, is very knowledgable about various types of traps he can use to attempt to escape Zaroff; however, he is at a disadvantage because he is not familiar with the terrain. Rainsford does his best to outwit Zaroff in the jungle, but his best trick comes when he jumps off a cliff into the water and Zaroff assumes he killed himself rather than be captured and stuffed by Zaroff. What the general does not realize is that Rainsford did not kill himself, but emerged from the water to hide in Zaroff's room until he went to bed.
Actually, he does offer him a choice. However the choice is to play the game, or to be handed over to Ivan. We are told Ivan was the official "knouter" (a person who whips people to death) for the Czar. So, yes, he will die by beating if he decides not to play the game. Rainsford must figure that if he is hunted he at least has a fighting chance.
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