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With such a well-constructed plot, Richard Connell has well prepared his reader to expect some grim conflicts. In the exposition, for example, Whitney considers whether animals that are hunted feel any fear of pain or of death, but Rainsford dismisses this consideration with disdain,
"Nonsense....This hot weather is making you soft, Whtiney. Be a realist. The world is made up of two classes--the hunters and the huntees. Luckily, you and I are hunters...."
Ironically, then, an unsuspecting Rainsford becomes the "huntee" against a cold and brutal and jaded General Zaroff who seeks the challenge of hunting a reasoning creature, the human being. He is especially excited about chasing Sanger Rainsford, with whom the general is familiar since he has "read all the books on hunting published in Englsih, French, and Russian."
When Zaroff tells Rainsford that he hunts "more dangerous game" and he lives "for danger," Rainsford cannot believe at first that the Cossack means to hunt him: "This is a grisly joke," he replies to the general's explanations. But, when Zaroff shows him how Rainsford's ship wrecked, Rainsford begins to give him credibility. It is at this point that the reader expects to read of the amazing hunt of one expert by another. Of course, the "game" will be played with great skill, and either can credibly win.
In considering one expectations of the outcome, the reader needs to consider the important element of verisimilitude in literature. So, given that Zaroff is a Cossack, a particularly brutal ethinicity, and that he lives isolated from civilization on an island in order to pursue his raison d'etre [reason for existing--"I live for the hunt"], the reader will want to evaluate the sequence of events that follow in terms of their believability regarding his actions. One thing about Zaroff that raises some doubt about his allowing Rainsford to escape after Rainsford's Burmese tiger pit claims one of Zaroff's best dogs. "I'm going home for a rest now. Thank you for a most amusing evening." Does Zaroff back off because he wants to prolong the hunt another day? Or is his allowing Rainsford out of character?
Another consideration for the element of verisimilitude, is further in the plot as Rainsford leaps into the sea, but is somehow able to sneak into the chateau in order to finish the game. Is this also believable given the details of the story that describe Ivan and guard dogs, etc.
A close rereading of the story with these dubious situations in mind will assist the reader in deciding about the verisimilitude of the narrative and whether the reader's expectations are resolved or overtuned.
This is a personal response about how the story makes you feel. At one point, Gen. Zaroff justifies his game by saying he only kills "the dregs" of society. Do you agree? Is MURDER (as Rainsford calls it) ever justified? Your feelings on this subject will help you develop what you expect will happen to Rainsford and Zaroff in the end. Do you ever change sides? Do you see one as the "good guy" and one as the "bad guy"?
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