In Richard Connell's suspenseful adventure tale of a deadly hunt, plot is the essential story element. With an exposition that includes a discussion between Sanger Rainsford and his friend and fellow hunter, Whitney, Connell subtlely suggests the dangerous game to come that will alter Rainsford's initial attitude about the feelings of the prey that is hunted:
"We should have some good hunting up the Amazon. Great sport, hunting."
"The best sport in the world," agreed Rainsford.
"For the hunter," amended Whitney. "Not for the jaguar."
"Don't talk rot, Whitney,...You're a big game hunter, not a philosopher. Who cares how a jaguar feels?"
"Perhaps the jaguar does..."
"Bah! They've no understanding."
Ironically, then, it is Rainsford who comes to have the deepest of understandings about how the jaguar feels as he himself becomes "a beast at bay." And, it is the first major event of the plot, the complication of the rising action, that initiates this change in feeling for Rainsford; namely, the evening when Rainsford leaps upon the rail of his ship and balances to ascertain from which direction shots have been fired, and he loses his balance and falls overboard,
The cry was pinched off short as the blood-warm water of the Caribbean Sea closed over his head.
Rainsford is able to swim toward the sound of a "screaming animal" and reaches a shore. Exhausted, he falls into a deep sleep.