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.

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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.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on February 19, 2021
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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.

Last Reviewed by eNotes Editorial on February 19, 2021
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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.

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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.

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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.

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