How does Rainsford arrive at the mysterious island in "The Most Dangerous Game"?

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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There is an air of mystery about a nearby island as Rainsford's yacht sails past it in "The Most Dangerous Game" by Richard Connell. The captain of the vessel, Whitney, explains that this island is referred to by sailors as Ship-Trap Island and, though they are naturally a suspicious bunch, even the sailors are afraid of it.

Rainsford does not at first buy into the mystique of the island shrouded in darkness, but soon even he feels something. Whitney says:

"This place has an evil name among seafaring men, sir." Then he said to me, very gravely, "Don't you feel anything?"--as if the air about us was actually poisonous. Now, you mustn't laugh when I tell you this--I did feel something like a sudden chill.

Before he goes to bed for the night, Rainsford relaxes and smokes his pipe in a deck chair until he hears a sharp crack. He is a hunter and he knows the sound well; it is the sound of a gunshot. Rainsford immediately goes to the railing of the ship and peers out into the darkness of the island. He stands on the rail in an attempt to get a better view of things, but his pipe hits a rope and falls out into the water. In an attempt to catch his pipe, Rainsford reaches over too far and finds himself in the "blood-warm waters of the Caribbean Sea."

Of course the first thing he tries is to get back to the yacht, but it is moving too quickly. Now he really has no choice but to swim toward Ship-Trap Island. It is an exhausting swim and he does not think he will make it to shore when he gets closer to the island and is faced with jagged rocks. Eventually he is able to reach land.

With his remaining strength he dragged himself from the swirling waters. Jagged crags appeared to jut up into the opaqueness; he forced himself upward, hand over hand. Gasping, his hands raw, he reached a flat place at the top.

This was a harrowing swim, but it will soon seem quite harmless compared to what he must face. This all happens because he was trying to retrieve his pipe when it was knocked out of his mouth by a rope.

Consider the excellent eNotes sites linked below for more insights and analysis about this famous short story.

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