The exposition and narrative hook in "The Most Dangerous Game" occur when Rainsford and Whitney, two hunting friends, are aboard the ship bound for big-game hunting lands. As they stare out into the sea one night, the two men discuss the morality of hunting and the mysterious "Ship-Trap Island." Connell uses the exposition not only to build suspense and foreshadow Rainsford's arrival on the island but also to hint at one of his themes--the moral soundness of hunting. Rainsford, during the exposition, is a hunting enthusiast, but his opinion quickly and ironically changes when he becomes the prey.
The exposition of Richard Connell's "The Most Dangerous Game" includes the presentation of the protagonist, Sanger Rainsford, and antagonist, General Zaroff. Also introduced are the Caribbean setting of Ship-Trap Island, the foreshadowing of the conflict of the hunter and the hunted, and the creation of suspense that will drive the plot.
Quite simply, the exposition of a short story is the beginning of the narrative, which introduces essential story elements. It is of great importance to the story because it provides information about setting, plot, characterization, and conflict. As Rainsford and his friend Whitney ride the sea a few days from Rio de Janeiro, they discuss the relationship of a big-game hunter and his prey. Whitney considers the fear the jaguar must feel when it is hunted, but Rainsford contradicts him,
"Nonsense.... This hot weather is making you soft, Whitney. Be a realist. The world is made up of two classes—the hunters and the huntees...."
This statement and his earlier remark ("Who cares how a jaguar feels?") foreshadow the cruel and "dangerous game": Zaroff's hunt for Rainsford. Furthermore, Rainsford's words also indicate his attitude at this point. As he and Whitney continue their conversation, Rainsford dismisses as "pure imagination" the observations by the ship's captain about Ship-Trap Island's having an evil name. When asked if he feels the same, Whitney responds,
"Maybe. But sometimes I think sailors have an extra sense.... Sometimes I think evil is a tangible thing—with wavelengths, just as sound and light have. An evil place can, so to speak, broadcast vibrations of evil."
Later, after Whitney retires for the night, Rainsford remains on deck. In the dark distance, he hears gunfire. When he hurries to the rail of the ship, leaping upon it so he can see, his pipe is knocked from his mouth. Rainsford lunges for it, but he falls overboard. In desperation, he swims after the yacht, but no one hears his cries. So Rainsford heads toward the place from which he has heard the sounds of the gun. However, he knows that he can only swim so far.
Further, he hears a "high screaming sound...of an animal in an extremity of anguish and terror." Spurred by the hope of reaching these sounds that have come from the land, Rainsford swims some more. Finally, he hears the sound of the sea breaking on a rocky shore. After reaching this shore, Rainsford collapses on the beach. The next day he sees a chateau in the distance and heads toward it. After arriving at this chateau, he knocks at the door. It is here that Rainsford meets the antagonist of the story, General Zaroff.