Why does Rainsford call himself a "beast at bay"?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Throughout the short story, Rainsford is hunted by the talented, murderous General Zaroff on Ship-Trap Island. Rainsford finds himself running through thick forests, avoiding deadly swamps, and dodging Zaroff's hunting dogs. Rainsford has become the prey and is essentially forced to act like a "beast at bay," which is a hunting term that describes the defensive nature of an animal facing a predator. When prey is "at bay," the animal is out of options and willing to fight at all costs. Fortunately, Rainsford is able to avoid Zaroff throughout the forest and sneaks into his room at the end of the story. When the surprised General smiles at Rainsford and congratulates him for winning the game, Rainsford responds by saying, "I am still a beast at bay" (Connell, 15). Rainsford refers to himself as a "beast at bay" because he still feels like he is on the defensive, and he is ready to strike. Rainsford is not willing to accept Zaroff's offer and faces off against the General for a final fight.

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The Most Dangerous Game

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