silhouette of a man with one eye open hiding in the jungle

The Most Dangerous Game

by Richard Edward Connell

Start Free Trial

What happens at the end of "The Most Dangerous Game"?

At the end of "The Most Dangerous Game," Rainsford dives into the sea to avoid General Zaroff, who is hot on his trail. Later that evening, the general eats dinner alone and is annoyed that Rainsford escaped. Once Zaroff enters his bedroom, Rainsford jumps out from behind a curtain and says that he is "still a beast at bay." Rainsford then challenges Zaroff to a duel and kills him. The story ends with Rainsford sleeping peacefully in Zaroff's bed.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

It is strongly implied, although not outright specified, that at the end of "The Most Dangerous Game," Rainsford recognizes that the only way to deal with General Zaroff is to attempt to beat him at his own game, of treating humans as if they were animals to be baited and used as prey.

Zaroff, thinking that Rainsford has escaped him as a quarry, goes home, thinking morosely about how he is going to have to replace his servant, Ivan, whom Rainsford has killed. He listens to opera and then goes to bed. He believes that Rainsford has been one of the most interesting beasts he has ever attempted to pursue. This opinion is borne out when, upon going to bed, he realizes that Rainsford is in his bedroom, waiting behind a curtain for him to arrive.

Zaroff tells Rainsford that he has won the game, but Rainsford parries, saying that actually he is still "a beast at bay," or still part of the game. He will not give up so easily, and he will not let Zaroff off the hook. Zaroff enjoys this and says that whichever of them gets the better of the other in their fight will sleep in the bed that night, while the other will be fed to the dogs.

Although there are no details of the fight, the fact that Rainsford is the one who ends up sleeping in the bed is a sure indication that he has bested Zaroff.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Sanger Rainsford manages to survive the three days on Ship-Trap and jumps into the sea just before General Zaroff has the chance to shoot him. Later that evening, General Zaroff eats dinner alone in his great paneled dining hall while he thinks about the difficulty of replacing Ivan and how Rainsford escaped him. Following dinner, the general soothes himself by reading the works of Marcus Aurelius before heading to bed. Zaroff has no reason to believe that Rainsford is still alive and suspects that he drowned when he dove into the sea.

Once General Zaroff enters his bedroom, Rainsford surprises him by stepping out from behind the curtain. Zaroff regains his composure and politely congratulates Rainsford for winning the most dangerous game. General Zaroff assumes that Rainsford will behave like a consummate professional and passively accept his congratulations without any altercation.

Rainsford responds to Zaroff's show of professionalism by saying that he is "still a beast at bay." Rainsford means that he still feels like a cornered animal and is ready to defend himself. Rainsford then challenges the general to a duel and defeats Zaroff in hand-to-hand combat. Connell does not depict the final battle between Rainsford and General Zaroff or provide any details of their fight. However, the final sentence of the story reveals that Rainsford killed his enemy and sleeps peacefully in his bed.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In "The Most Dangerous Game," Rainsford escapes from Zaroff by diving into the sea. Zaroff then returns to his mansion and eats dinner. As he eats, the story tells us, he feels annoyed about how the hunt ended (he finds it unsatisfying for it to have resolved in the manner that it did), just as he feels annoyed by the death of his servant, Ivan. Later, Zaroff retires to his bedroom for the night.

However, Rainsford has not died. Since his escape, he has hidden in Zaroff's bedroom, with the intention of killing Zaroff himself. When Zaroff discovers Rainsford, the general is delighted to learn that their contest isn't over but will conclude with one final fight to the death. The story skips over that last fight. Instead, it shows Rainsford lying in Zaroff's bed, having defeated and killed his opponent.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Near the end of Connell’s classic short story, General Zaroff and his hunting dogs close in on Rainsford, who is forced to jump into the sea to survive. Zaroff assumes that Rainsford is dead and heads back to his chateau. Later that night, General Zaroff eats dinner by himself and muses on the difficulty of replacing his reliable servant Ivan as well as his unique experience hunting Rainsford. Just before Zaroff goes to bed, Rainsford steps out from behind a curtain and challenges the general to a fight. Zaroff is initially surprised that Rainsford is alive and responds by congratulating him on winning the game. However, Rainsford is still a “beast at bay” and seeks revenge on Zaroff. Rainsford ends up killing the general in one-on-one combat and rests peacefully in Zaroff’s bed that night.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

At the end of the story General Zaroff believes that Rainsford has simply given up and jumped off the cliffs and into the sea to meet his death. He is actually disappointed that Rainsford chose this method of death as opposed to finishing the game. Rainsford jumped, but not to his death and he hikes back to General Zaroff's home and hides behind his curtain to lay in wait for the hunter. The roles now swiftly change and Rainsford is now waiting for his prey instead of being the prey. Zaroff retires to his room, disappointed in the game for the night and Rainsford reveals himself and declares victory by sending Zaroff out to his killer hounds and sleeping restfully in Zaroff's big beautiful bed.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Rainsford is being pursued by Zaroff and his dogs.  He comes to a cliff where "twenty feet below him the sea rumbled and hissed"  He could see the chateau of General Zaroff across the cove.  He hesitated and then jumped into the sea.

General Zaroff gets to the cliff, realizes that Rainsford has jumped, shruggs, lights a cigarette, and hums a tune from Madame Butterfly. He then goes home and has a wonderful meal.  Two things worried Zaroff.  First of all, how was he going to replace Ivan, and secondly, he hadn't killed the American.  The American had cheated him of that pleasure.  He reads a little and has an after dinner drink before going to bed at ten.

When he retires, there is a man standing behind the curtain of his bedroom.  It is Rainsford.  Zaroff congratulates him and tells him that he has won the game.  But Rainsford is not that stupid.  He knows that the General can never let him return to civilization and tell others what he knows about the island.  He tells Zaroff

"I am still a beast at bay" (pg 15)

Zaroff understands that one of them has to die and

 "furnish a repast (meal) for the hounds. The other will sleep in a very excellent bed."

He then says, "On Guard" which people say when they sword fight.  So Rainsford and Zaroff sword fight, and Rainsford decides that

"He had never slept in a better bed.." (pg 15)

Rainsford won.

Posted on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

At the very end of the story, Sanger Rainsford kills General Zaroff.

General Zaroff had been hunting Rainsford throughout much of the story.  Rainsford had kept managing to escape Zaroff.  He had hurt Zaroff and bit and killed one of his best dogs.  He had also killed Zaroff's man, Ivan.  Finally, Rainsford dives into the ocean and makes his way back to Zaroff's house and into Zaroff's room.

Zaroff comes in, they fight and Rainsford kills Zaroff.  The story ends with Rainsford going to sleep in Zaroff's bed.  He decides it is the most comfortable bed he has ever slept in and we are left to decide for ourselves what he is going to do next.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team