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The Most Dangerous Game

by Richard Edward Connell

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What choice does Zaroff give to Rainsford in "The Most Dangerous Game," and why is there really no choice at all?

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Zaroff, an antagonist who hides his savage evil and bloodlust behind a facade of decorum and sportsmanship, illustrates his true nature by giving every man who becomes stranded on his island a choice. The choice that Rainsford is given is to either submit himself to a twisted game in which Zaroff will participate in an island-wide hunt with Rainsford as the quarry or to be savagely beaten by Ivan, Zaroff's gargantuan assistant.

The choice is truly no choice at all, because either situation results in almost certain death. Zaroff is a master hunter—so skilled that he, by his own admission, has grown bored with hunting any sort of prey besides one capable of reasoning on his level, and Ivan is so prodigiously large and strong that any ordinary man would have no hope of surviving being beaten by him.

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The maniacal General Zaroff gives Rainsford the choice to participate in the most dangerous game, where Rainsford will be hunted by the general, or to be tortured to death by Ivan, who served as the official knouter to the Great White Czar. Rainsford does not really have a choice because either option endangers his well-being and he risks dying. According to Zaroff's rules for the most dangerous game, Rainsford will be given a small knife, hunting clothes, moccasins, and a supply of food as he is hunted throughout Ship-Trap Island for three consecutive days. If Rainsford manages to survive the three days, he will be allowed to safely leave the island. If Rainsford refuses to participate in the game and allow Zaroff to hunt him, Ivan will torture him to death. After listening to Zaroff's two options, Rainsford has no other choice than to participate in the game. Fortunately, Rainsford outwits Zaroff and survives the three days on Ship-Trap Island before eventually killing Zaroff in hand-to-hand combat.

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For every captured man on Ship Trap Island, Zaroff gives two options of which he has to make a choice. One option is to be hunted down by Zaroff, in a highly lopsided contest, considering Zaroff’s excellent hunting skills and knowledge of all the nooks and crannies on the island. To kind of balance the game, Zaroff equips his prey with supplies on which he can survive during the hunt. He also gives him a three-hour head start before he follows his trail. The hunted man wins the game if he is able to elude the hunter for three whole days. The alternative to this choice is a flogging by the giant Ivan. Rainsford is given these options and chooses to be hunted down by Zaroff. However, he is treated in a better manner than the other captured men, who are held in a cellar, which Zaroff refers to as his “training school”, before the hunt.

In Zaroff’s own words, he was yet to lose a hunt on Ship Trap Island, thus playing his quarry is really not a choice as one is sure to lose the game. However, the alternative is even worse as the chance of living through a whipping in the hands of Ivan is quite low.

As the story goes, through many strategies, Rainsford kills one of Zaroff’s best dogs, kills Ivan, and finally kills the general himself.

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General Zaroff gives Rainsford a choice between two awful potentials.  Zaroff explains to Rainsford that he gives the men that are trapped on his island a choice.  They can either be whipped to death by Ivan, or they can attempt to survive Zaroff's hunting for three days.  General Zaroff gives Rainsford the exact same choice.  

For most men, the choice really isn't a choice at all.  Thus far, no matter what each man chooses, the end result has been the same.  Death.  The only difference is that choosing to be hunted might give a man a few extra hours of life.  Rainsford chooses to take his chances on the hunt instead of a guaranteed death from Ivan.  Rainsford's choice winds up being a good choice for Rainsford because Rainsford evades Zaroff and eventually ends up killing Zaroff.  

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What choice does Zaroff give to Rainsford in Connell's "The Most Dangerous Game"? Why is there really no choice at all?

When General Zaroff and Rainsford are talking about the hunting game that is played on Ship-Trap Island, Rainsford asks what Zaroff says if a man does not want to be hunted? Zaroff's response is as follows:

"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. Invariably, Mr. Rainsford, invariably they choose the hunt."

A "knouter" is a someone who punishes criminals with a knout, or a kind of leather whip. This isn't much of a choice for Zaroff's "guests" because if a man is hunted on the island, he has a chance to survive or fight for his life. If a person chooses to be whipped by Ivan, though, he has no opportunity to save his life or escape pain. Rainsford requests to leave the island without playing the game, but Zaroff does not make any concessions. In fact, Zaroff responds to Rainsford by saying the following:

"The choice rests entirely with you. But may I not venture to suggest that you will find my idea of sport more diverting than Ivan's?"

Rainsford is surprised that Zaroff truly intends to hunt him even though he is a famous hunter himself. For Zaroff, who often becomes bored with his quarry's boring attempts to survive, hunting Rainsford is a welcomed opportunity to hunt someone who is not only skilled at hunting, but who is a highly intelligent and skilled soldier as well. Nevertheless, Rainsford has a better chance to survive the hunt than he does at the end of Ivan's whip; therefore, the choice between three days of hunting versus torture is really no choice at all. 

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