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Sanger Rainsford survives the most dangerous of games because of his physical stamina and mental cunning and hunting experience, and perhaps, most importantly, because of a little bit of luck.
As he fights his way through the bush for two hours, Rainsford's experience as a hunter gives him the mental strength to draw upon his mental stamina: "I must keep my nerve." And, he gets "a grip on himself," evaluating the situation in which he finds himself. With his mental cunning, Rainsford makes his trail difficult to follow as he recalls "all the lore of the fox hunt." Exhausted afterwards, Rainsford climbs a tree in which to rest for the night.
When Zaroff somehow follows his trail, Rainsford is amazed. As Rainsford holds his breath, the general blows a smoke ring directly beneath him.
Why had the general smiled? Why had he turned back?
Rainsford did not want to believe what his reason told him was true...The general was playing with him! The general was saving him for another day's sport!
This is the luck that Rainsford has had. For, he could have been killed. The general gambled on being able to catch Rainsford the next day, but given this "lucky break," Rainsford capitalizes on his second chance as General Zaroff's excitement about hunting Rainsford causes him to not grasp his opportunity when he trails his prey to the tree.
Rainsford subdues his terror and continues. He creates a Burmese tiger pit when he spots the quicksand, recalling his experience in France during the world war. Also, as he hears the baying of the hounds the next day, Rainsford's
mind worked frantically. He thought of a native trick he had learned in Uganda; he creates a trap with a springy young sapling.
After the sapling impales Ivan, Rainsford repeats, "Nerve, nerve, nerve!" knowing how important it is to control one's mind during a hunt. As he hears the hounds approach, Rainsford leaps into the sea, and, luckily, he survives the twenty-foot dive. Stealthily, he later climbs to the chateau and enters the very bedroom of his predator, General Zaroff because of his physical stamina, his mental discipline and cleverness and experience, as well as some good luck.
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