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

The Most Dangerous Game

by Richard Edward Connell
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What is meant by "he lived a year in a minute"?

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As Rainsford was working on making the trap, it seemed he worked quickly, frantically, and exhaustingly spending much exertion. I imagine, if he could track his output in the short amount of time he had to make the trap, it would have been comparable to the amount of work his...

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As Rainsford was working on making the trap, it seemed he worked quickly, frantically, and exhaustingly spending much exertion. I imagine, if he could track his output in the short amount of time he had to make the trap, it would have been comparable to the amount of work his body normally does over days, weeks, or months. Then, to sit in anticipation after unloading all of that work probably felt like forever. He knew he was racing against the time at which Zaroff would again show up. He did not know how long that would take. Once his task was done, it should seem that any moment it would be acceptable for Zaroff to approach... but it took a while - that little while felt like forever to him.

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I assume that you have heard (probably many times) the saying that "time flies when you're having fun."  Well, this is sort of the opposite.  It is meant to show how nervous and scared Sanger Rainsford was at this point in the story.

At this point, Rainsford has made his Burmese Tiger Trap and he's really anxious, hoping that Zaroff will fall in.  It really is a matter of life and death for him.  As a way to show this, the author says that time is moving really slowly for Rainsford.

Think about sometime that you've been scared or nervous.  How did time feel to you at that point?

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Shortly after Sanger Rainsford successfully wounds General Zaroff using the Malay mancatcher, the general walks back to his chateau to dress his wounds and Rainsford begins running in the opposite direction. Unfortunately, Rainford runs directly into the Death Swamp and begins to desperately dig a deep pit. Rainsford then fashions sharp stakes and places them at the bottom of the massive hole to create a deadly Burmese tiger pit. As soon as Rainsford finishes the trap, he crouches down behind a nearby tree, where he cannot see the pit or the general. Connell then writes,

He [Rainford] lived a year in a minute. (13)

Connell's comment emphasizes the amount of stress and pressure that Rainsford is under. Essentially, Connell is saying that Rainsford aged a year in a minute because of the intense, life-threatening situation. By figuratively living a year in a minute, Rainsford has experienced all the stress and pressure that a typical person would experience in a year. As he crouches behind a tree, Rainsford suddenly hears the crackle of broken branches and a sharp scream of pain. Unfortunately, Rainsford only wounds one of Zaroff's best dogs, which means that the general will continue to pursue him throughout Ship-Trap Island. Despite Rainsford's small victory, he is forced to continue avoiding the general, who begins pursuing him with a pack of dogs.

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