silhouette of a man with one eye open hiding in the jungle

The Most Dangerous Game

by Richard Edward Connell

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Describe how one story detail helps you visualize Rainsford’s fear of General Zaroff in "The Most Dangerous Game."

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Having had a discussion with with his friend Whitney in the exposition of the story, ironically, Rainsford declares no sympathy for the prey as he tells Whitney who ponders the fear the jaguar must feel when hunted, "Who cares how a jaguar feels?" Whitney replies,

"Even so, I rather think they understand one thing--fear. The fear of pain and the fear of death."

So, when Rainsford becomes the prey of General Zaroff, he may well remember the observation of his friend Whitney. Furthermore, he may also recall the "high screaming an extremity of anguish and terror" as he finds himself hunted as Zaroff's "more dangerous game." 

On the first day of the hunt, Rainsford has been fighting his way through brush for two hours, telling himself "I must keep my nerve" as he understands all too well the "fear of pain and the fear of death." Having put some distance between himself and Zaroff, Rainsford now realizes that he must be more clever, so he leaves the paths and delves into the "trackless wilderness," weaving and looping, doubling his trail repeatedly until he is scratched and weary and night begins to fall. Having played the fox, Rainsford decides that he will play the cat and climb into a tree and rest on in a thick part of a tree. In the waking morning, Rainsford hears "the cry of some startled bird" as something approaches. Flattening himself like the cat he has earlier imitated, Rainsford peeks through the curtain of tree leaves and sees General Zaroff.

He paused almost beneath the tree, dropped to his knees and studied the ground....the general's right hand held something metallic--a small automatic pistol.

Zaroff shakes his head as though puzzled. Then, he lights ones of his fine cigarettes, and its "pungent incenselike smoke" wafts under Rainsford's nose. Nervously, Rainsford watches from above:

Rainsford held his breath. The general's eyes had left the ground and were traveling inch by inch up the tree. Rainsford froze there, every muscle tensed for a spring. But the sharp eyes of the hunter stopped before they reached the limb where Rainsford lay; a smile spread over his brown face. Very deliberately, he blew a smoke ring into the air; then, he turned...and walked carelessly away....

After the general departs, Rainsford releases from his lungs the "pent-up air" in his warm lungs. His first thought causes him to "feel sick and numb." For, Rainsford realizes how well the Cossack can follow a trail, even in the dark of night. His second thought terrifies him, sending shudders of horror through his body because Rainsford realizes that Zaroff could easily have shot him, but has decided to prolong the hunt for "another day's sport!" Connell writes, "Then it was that Rainsford knew the full meaning of terror."

The author's early mention of the jaguar and his fear foreshadows the terror of Rainsford who finds himself in a similar position to that of the jaguar. Then, after Rainsford's rapid and clever manoeuvrings of the entire day, the skillful general is yet able to track his prey in the dark, and swiftly, at that. When he stops beneath the tree where Rainsford has sought refuge for the night, Rainsford realizes that he is, instead, trapped up there as he reasons that the Cossack has casually enjoyed a cigarette and blown smoke up to him as a sign that he knows Rainsford is there, but has decided to prolong his sadistic pleasure for another day. That Rainsford is reduced to "another day's sport" is a chilling idea, indeed.

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