In the story "The Most Dangerous Game" what caused Rainsford to believe Zaroff knew he was hiding in the tree?

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mercut1469 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Sanger Rainsford is a big game hunter who accidentally comes ashore on an island owned by a Cossack general named Zaroff. When they first meet, the general is quite the host and gentleman. He offers Rainsford the best in food and drink. Like Rainsford, the general is an accomplished hunter. Unfortunately, during the course of their meal together, Rainsford learns that Zaroff has taken to hunting men because he has become bored and dissatisfied with hunting animals. He tells Rainsford:

"As soon as I recovered I started for the Amazon to hunt jaguars, for I had heard they were unusually cunning. They weren't." The Cossack sighed. "They were no match at all for a hunter with his wits about him and a high powered rifle. I was bitterly disappointed."

He offers to hunt with Rainsford, but when the American refuses, the general outfits the American with moccasins and a knife, giving him a head start before proceeding to hunt him. Apparently Zaroff thinks the American may provide him with a challenge. Indeed, Rainsford winds a difficult path through the jungle at night, but ultimately the general follows his prey to just below the tree. After all, Zaroff knows his island and has an "uncanny" ability for tracking. But the general is most certainly intrigued and doesn't want the hunt to end so soon. Instead of finishing him off, the general smokes a cigarette. He rewards Rainsford's ability to weave a difficult trail and walks away from the tree. But Rainsford knows:

The general could follow a trail through the woods at night . . . the truth was as evident as the sun that had by now pushed through the morning mists. The general was playing with him! The general was saving him for another day's sport! The Cossack was the cat; he was the mouse.

ladyvols1 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Rainsford is being hunted by Zaroff and to escape the hunter he climbs a tree.  Zaroff stops and his eyes climb up the trunk of the tree.  He smiles and blows a smoke ring toward the tree.  Then Zaroff goes off in the opposite direction. 

"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 his back on the tree and walked carelessly away, back along the trail he had come."
“Rainsford's second thought was even more terrible. It sent a shudder of cold horror through his whole being. Why had the general smiled? Why had he turned back?”
“Rainsford did not want to believe what his reason told him was true, but the truth was as evident as the sun that had by now pushed through the morning mists. The general was playing with him! The general was saving him for another day's sport! The Cossack was the cat; he was the mouse. Then it was that Rainsford knew the full meaning of terror.”

The smile is what makes Rainsford believe that he is being played with.

texasmade | Student

Because general Zaroff blew smoke right at him up in the tree where rainsford was hiding.

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The Most Dangerous Game

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