What are the rules General Zaroff has for his game with Rainsford in Richard Connell's "The Most Dangerous Game"?

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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"The Most Dangerous Game," by Richard Connell, is set on an almost-uninhabited Caribbean island. The only dwelling on the island is a castle-like mansion which belongs to General Zaroff. He is a big-game hunter who got bored with animals and has begun to hunt humans.

Rainsford is also a big-game hunter, and Zaroff has heard of him. This is good news for Zaroff but bad news for Rainsford, as the general decides he will hunt Rainsford.

The rules Zaroff outlines for Rainsford are the same as those he sets for all of the other men (sailors and others who have been lured to the island and been shipwrecked).

"It's a game, you see," pursued the general blandly. "I suggest to one of them that we go hunting. I give him a supply of food and an excellent hunting knife. I give him three hours' start. I am to follow, armed only with a pistol of the smallest caliber and range. If my quarry eludes me for three whole days, he wins the game. If I find him"--the general smiled--"he loses."

Rainsford asks the next logical question: what if a man refuses to hunt? The answer is not something Rainsford wants to hear:

"If he does not wish to hunt, I turn him over to Ivan. Ivan once had the honor of serving as official knouter to the Great White Czar, and he has his own ideas of sport. Invariably, Mr. Rainsford, invariably they choose the hunt."

Zaroff graciously gives Rainsford "hunting clothes, food, a knife." He advises Rainsford to wear moccasins (because they leave less track) and to avoid the swamp full of quicksand. Zaroff gives Rainsford his word that he will "cheerfully acknowledge myself defeated if I do not find you by midnight of the third day," said General Zaroff. "My sloop will place you on the mainland near a town." He adds that he can be trusted, since he gives his word "as a gentleman." All Rainsford has to do is agree not to mention anything about the island once he leaves.

Those are the rules and conditions of this "most dangerous game."

Read the study guide:
The Most Dangerous Game

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