This quote foreshadows the horrors and...
At the beginning of the story, Whitney, a hunting companion of Rainsford's, tells Rainsford:
The old charts call it "Ship-Trap Island." . . . A suggestive name, isn't it. Sailors have a curious dread of the place. I don't know why. Some superstition—
This quote foreshadows the horrors and extreme complications that Rainsford is going to experience later in the story. Later that night, as Rainsford is relaxing, he hears a strange "abrupt sound." He realizes that it is a gun being fired. The noise interests him, and he "leap[s] upon the rail and balance[s] himself there, to get greater elevation."
While balanced on the rail, his pipe falls out of his mouth, and he tries to catch it. In the process, he loses his balance and falls into the Caribbean Sea. The yacht speeds away and leaves him in the sea. This is already a great conflict, but Rainsford's troubles have only begun.
He is able to swim to the island. Ironically, he thinks that he is safe:
All he knew was that he was safe from his enemy, the sea, and that utter weariness was on him.
Soon after, Rainsford meets General Zaroff, a man who reveals that he hunts humans for sport:
I wanted the ideal animal to hunt . . . It must have courage, cunning, and above all, it must be able to reason.
Rainsford questions Zaroff, reminding him that "what [he] speak[s] of is murder." Zaroff, however, tells Rainsford that he has "romantic ideas about the value of human life." He does not think it is wrong to hunt humans.
Finally, Rainsford asks what happens if a man refuses to play General Zaroff's game. He explains,
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.
Rainsford has no choice: he must try to evade General Zaroff, or he will be tortured by Ivan. Rainsford's yacht trip ends up being filled with weighty complications.