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The Most Dangerous Game

by Richard Edward Connell
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What happens to Zaroff? Does Rainsford change his mind about hunting by the end of "The Most Dangerous Game"?

Rainsford wins the Most Dangerous Game by killing Zaroff and, eventually, sleeping in his bed. (The story's final line implies this because Zaroff is dead, although we can never be sure how he died.) What about that ending? Reader response to Rainsford's final line has been mixed. In one interpretation, Rainsford is mocking the old hunter Zaroff--who has just been killed--by celebrating the comforts of lying in his bed. Or maybe Rainsford is celebrating his own victory over Zaroff. Whichever interpretation you prefer, it's certain that the final line provides a quick and ironic punchline to the of many such endings throughout "The Most Dangerous Game."

Expert Answers

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The surprising ending to the story provides a reversal of fortunes for both Rainsford and Zaroff. When Rainsford survives the plunge from the cliff and then shows up in Zaroff's bedroom, the general graciously concedes the contest.

"I congratulate you," he said. "You have won the game."

Zaroff would probably have honored the terms of the hunt and provided Rainsford with safe passage off the island. But the past three days as the hunted prey of Zardoff has hardened Rainsford, and he wants revenge. The old hunt will continue, Rainsford warns the Cossack. "I am still a beast at bay." Zaroff understands and he seems happy with the prospect of another human hunt--even if he is to now be the prey. 

"Splendid! One of us is to furnish a repast for the hounds. The other will sleep in this very excellent bed. On guard, Rainsford..."

The final line of the short story provides the answers to your questions.

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

Rainsford is the only survivor: He has won the hunt, apparently killing Zaroff and possibly even feeding him to the dogs. Rainsford, who considers Zaroff a murderer, sleeps the sleep of the dead. He has won the hunt, but unlike Zaroff, Rainsford will probably be satisfied with his trophy--Zaroff, a murderer who has tried to kill him--and not grow to love it like Zaroff.

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