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The Most Dangerous Game

by Richard Edward Connell
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What is the climax of the story "The Most Dangerous Game"?

The climax of the story "The Most Dangerous Game" is the intense moment before Rainsford jumps off the cliff into the sea as General Zaroff and his pack of hunting dogs surround him.

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The climax of "The Most Dangerous Game" is located towards the end of the story when General Zaroff leads his pack of hunting dogs in Rainsford's direction, and Rainsford jumps into the sea to avoid certain death. Throughout the story, Sanger Rainsford runs and hides from General Zaroff for three consecutive days during the most dangerous game. Rainsford is unarmed and must rely on his expertise and survival skills to trick and avoid the deranged general. Zaroff is armed with a small-caliber gun but has the advantage of knowing the island and experienced hunting dogs to track Rainsford's movements.

In the story, Rainsford manages to build several efficient traps, which slow down Zaroff and significantly disrupt his progress. Towards the end of the story, General Zaroff, Ivan, and his dogs discover Rainsford's trail and begin following him. On their way, one of Rainsford traps kills Ivan but the general continues to follow his trail. The climax takes place when Rainford panics and runs out of the forest to the ledge of a cliff while Zaroff is hot on his trial. At the most suspenseful part of the story, Rainsford realizes that he has no other choice than to leap from the cliff and into the water in order to escape the general and his baying dogs.

Rainsford jumps from the cliff, and Connell uses an ellipsis to contribute to the suspense. After Rainsford jumps, the reader is not sure if he survived, and the setting shifts to Zaroff's dining room, where he enjoys his dinner and reads the works of Marcus Aurelius in peace. Rainsford jumping into the sea is considered the climax because it is the most suspenseful moment and a turning point in the story.

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The climax of a story is the most intense point in a narrative as well as the dramatic turning point in the plot. In Connell's short story "The Most Dangerous Game," one could argue that the climax of the story takes place shortly after Rainsford's spring trap kills Ivan, and the general and his pack of hunting dogs close in on Rainsford as he sprints toward the sea. When the hounds pick up on Rainsford's scent and begin leading General Zaroff in his direction, the tension rises as Rainsford runs toward the water. Rainsford is completely out of options when he stops at the edge of a cliff about twenty feet above the sea. At this point in the story, Rainsford is standing directly across the cove from Zaroff's chateau and is forced to make a difficult decision.

The reader experiences the exciting, climactic moment and wonders if Rainsford will risk his life by diving into the sea to avoid the general. The tension reaches a fever pitch as Zaroff comes closer and Rainsford suddenly jumps off the cliff into the sea. The falling action follows the climax and includes Zaroff ruminating on his disappointing game and how he will replace Ivan. The falling action also includes Rainsford's sudden appearance in Zaroff's bedroom and their duel, which is not described. The duel between Rainsford and Zaroff is not the climax, because the reader does not experience the same tension or excitement as the moment Rainsford leaps into the sea. Also, Rainsford and Zaroff's duel is not described in detail, and the reader is simply aware that Rainsford defeats the general.

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The climax in the plot of a short story is the highest point of interest. In other words, the reader should be at a point in the story where suspense has built up to an inevitable crisis. In Richard Connell's short story the climax is when Rainsford decides to jump into the ocean in order to avoid General Zaroff, who will most certainly kill Rainsford if he catches him. After trying every hunting trick he knows, including the Malay man-catcher and Burmese tiger pit, Rainsford finds himself on the edge of a cliff across from Zaroff's chateau. The general is being led by his pack of dogs toward Rainsford when the American leaps:

Twenty feet below him the sea rumbled and hissed. Rainsford hesitated. He heard the hounds. The he leaped far out into the sea....

Connell uses an ellipsis here to indicate that it is unknown whether Rainsford survives the jump or not. The falling action, which follows the climax, involves Zaroff going back to his chateau, dining and reading. When he goes to bed he discovers Rainsford, who has survived the swim (foreshadowed earlier in the story when Rainsford falls off his yacht and swims to the island), in his bedroom. They fight and, in the resolution of the conflict between the two men, Rainsford kills the general and sleeps in his bed.

Some might argue that the climax actually occurs when Rainsford reappears in Zaroff's bedroom; though there's a case to be made for this interpretation, the fact that the fight itself isn't described in detail leaves the scene reading more like traditional falling action. The reader's anticipation is greatest in the scene where Rainsford jumps off the cliff; thus I would argue that this scene, not the one in which Rainsford reappears, is better identified as the climax.

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The climax of any story is the high point of the story.  The moments leading up to the climax are all part of the rising action, and anything after the climax is falling action and resolution.  The climax of "The Most Dangerous Game" is when Rainsford kills Ivan and escapes from Zaroff by jumping off the cliff.  This is by far the most tense and suspenseful part of the story, and the moments after this are not nearly as heart pounding.  When Rainsford jumps, the story is at its peak in terms of momentum.  

After this climactic moment in the story, Rainsford makes his way back to Zaroff's house.  Once there, he waits for Zaroff to return.  The story concludes with Rainsford killing Zaroff and sleeping soundly in the man's bed.  I have seen some interpretations that support this final scene as the climax, but very little detail appears in the scene itself.  The author hints that a fight ensues, but no explanation is given.  

The general made one of his deepest bows. "I see," he said. "Splendid! One of us is to furnish a repast for the hounds. The other will sleep in this very excellent bed. On guard, Rainsford." . . .

He had never slept in a better bed, Rainsford decided.

As you can see, Zaroff readies himself for a fight, and the next thing the reader gets is the information that Raisford slept really well.  We have no idea how intense the fight was.  Compared the cliff jumping sequence, the bedroom confrontation is much less climactic.  I would categorize the bedroom confrontation as the story's falling action.  

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