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

The Most Dangerous Game

by Richard Edward Connell

Start Free Trial

What does "I am still a beast at bay" mean in Richard Connell's "The Most Dangerous Game"?

Quick answer:

In Richard Connell's "The Most Dangerous Game", the phrase "I am still a beast at bay" is used by the character Rainsford to indicate his readiness to fight to the death, like a hunted animal cornered with no escape. The term "at bay" refers to the situation where an animal is surrounded by hunters, signifying a predicament with no retreat. Despite the end of the three-day hunting challenge, Rainsford, likening himself to a beast at bay, confronts Zaroff, indicating the game isn't over yet.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Connell's "The Most Dangerous Game," the word bay shows up a number of times. The repetitive use of this word first applies to the way the hunting dogs sound as they search for Rainsford. Then it is used to describe how he feels while being hunted. For example, the dogs are described as follows:

"The baying of the hounds drew nearer, then still nearer, nearer ever nearer. . . Rainsford knew now how an animal at bay feels."

The above sentences show how the word is used in different contexts. The first is used to demonstrate the sound of hunting dogs and the second is used to explain how Rainsford feels. The use of this word is significant because Rainsford seems to turn into a hound or a beast as he experiences being hunted like one. 

After three days of being hunted, Rainsford sneaks into Zaroff's room and tells him, "I am still a beast at bay . . . Get ready, General Zaroff." In this case, the phrase "at bay" means that Rainsford has not thrown off his role as a hunted beast simply because the three-day hunting challenge is over. For instance, once a hunted animal feels as though it is out of options for escape, it is "at bay" and usually does not change its mind until it or its predator is dead. Therefore, Rainsford is implying that he is there to fight Zaroff until one of them dies. This is ironic because Rainsford states that he is against killing another human being when he first meets Zaroff at the beginning of the story. However, he is now ready to fight to the death, which shows that his opinion has changed. He is now thinking and acting like a beast at bay.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Rainsford is telling General Zaroff that the game is not over. Zaroff should consider Rainsford as the prey he was tracking before. Now, however, Rainsford has returned to Zaroff's bedroom, but the hunter understands how a hunted animal feels. He refers to himself as a "beast at bay" because  he is unable to retreat and forced to face danger. "Bay" is a reference to the baying or barking of dogs used in hunting. In Rainsford's case, he has chosen to face Zaroff a final time in the hope that he can eliminate his foe.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What does Rainsford mean when he says "I am still a beast at bay" in "The Most Dangerous Game"?

As General Zaroff approaches Rainsford with his hunting dogs, Connell writes, "Rainsford knew now how an animal at bay feels" (14). Connell's use of the word "bay" means under attack or threatened. Rainsford has become the prey and now acknowledges what it feels like to be the threatened: vulnerable quarry. In this state of mind, Rainsford and hunted animals are prepared to fight for their lives and are at their most dangerous. Their backs are against the wall and are prepared to attack the person hunting or threatening them.

At the end of the story, Rainsford surprises Zaroff in his room, and the general proceeds to congratulate him on winning the most dangerous game. However, Rainsford responds by telling the general:

I am still a beast at bay...Get ready, General Zaroff. (Connell 15)

Rainsford means that he still feels like he is the prey and is prepared to fight to the death. Rainsford remains aggressive and willing to risk his life to survive, like an animal being hunted. Overall, Rainsford is informing the general that he is prepared to attack and is still in a hostile, aggressive mindset.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

At the end of the short story "The Most Dangerous Game" by Richard Connell, Rainsford states: "I am still a beast at bay." What does he mean?

Richard Connell's "The Most Dangerous Game" is set primarily on an isolated Caribbean island on which there is only one structure; that mansion belongs to General Zaroff. Sanger Rainsford is only on the island at all because he accidentally fell overboard from a yacht he was sailing. He was on his way to a hunting expedition, and very soon he will be forced to apply everything he has learned to save his life.

General Zaroff appears to be a civilized man who is living in isolation, surrounded by opulence of every kind. He has the best books, the best clothing, and the best wines and foods; he even hums the best music. He is a big-game hunter, and he has the heads of all his greatest catches mounted on his walls. 

Over a very civilized dinner, Zaroff reveals that he has grown bored with hunting animals and now hunts humans. It is a horrific thing to contemplate, and Rainsford is understandably appalled. He is even more horrified to learn that he is the general's next prey. If Zaroff does not catch (and kill) him, Zaroff promises (on his word as a gentleman, of course) to take Rainsford wherever he wants to go. The specific rule of the hunt, as set by Zaroff, is this:

"I'll cheerfully acknowledge myself defeated if I do not find you by midnight of the third day," said General Zaroff.

Rainsford eludes (or is deliberately allowed to live) Zaroff for several days. On the third day, Zaroff brings his dogs with him, and Rainsford has no choice but to jump off the cliffs and onto the rocks below. Zaroff assumes, of course, that Rainsford is dead, and he goes home satisfied.

At ten o'clock that night, Zaroff locks himself in his room as he prepares for bed, and of course we know that Rainsford survived the fall and is now hiding behind the curtain of Zaroff's bedroom. When Rainsford shows himself, Zaroff is of course surprised.

The general sucked in his breath and smiled. "I congratulate you," he said. "You have won the game."

Rainsford did not smile. "I am still a beast at bay," he said, in a low, hoarse voice. "Get ready, General Zaroff."

The general made one of his deepest bows. "I see," he said. "Splendid! One of us is to furnish a repast for the hounds. The other will sleep in this very excellent bed. On guard, Rainsford." . . .

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

These are the last lines of the story, and your question is a good one. The "beast at bay" comment refers to the fact that it is not yet midnight, so Zaroff's admission that he has lost the game is not really true. The hunt does not end until midnight according to Zaroff's own rules; so Rainsford is still fighting for his own life and, by killing Zaroff, the lives of other unsuspecting human prey. Rainsford calls himself a beast at bay, an animal that is cornered by not yet caught, because it is not yet midnight of the third day and he intends to fight for his life.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What does "a beast at bay" mean in "The Most Dangerous Game" (by Richard Connell)?

Richard Connell's "The Most Dangerous Game" is a tale of the stereotypical cat-and-mouse game. Pitting two very proficient hunters, Zaroff and Rainsford, against each other, Connell's story illustrates the ends one will go to in order to insure he or she feels challenged. 

In the final few lines of the text, Rainsford tells Zaroff that he is "a beast at bay." In order to understand what Rainsford means, one can break down the phrase. 

Rainsford calls himself a beast. A beast, technically, is nonhuman, lower than animals, and cruel. Given that he is getting ready to murder Zaroff, Rainsford believes he has lost any and all characteristics of being a human. "At bay" refers to being in a position where one is corned and must fight. Put together, Rainsford is no longer a man who is fighting a forced fight. 

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is meant by the following quote from "The Most Dangerous Game"? "I am still a beast at bay."

When dogs are used in hunting animals, they bay when they have cornered or treed their quarry.  In this story, it represents the feeling that Rainsford has about not being able to escape his situation - he is forced to face the danger in front of him.

Cornered animals are also the most ferocious, so Rainsford is also saying it in the context of being willing to take on General Zaroff, having been left with no other alternative.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is meant by the following quote from "The Most Dangerous Game"? "I am still a beast at bay."

The line you mention is spoken by Sanger Rainsford to General Zaroff right at the end of the story.  He is in Zaroff's bedroom -- he has managed to get there after escaping from Zaroff's efforts to hunt him.

In terms of hunting, an animal was said to be "at bay" when it had been chased (by dogs) until it had no where left to run.  The animal would then have the choice to either fight or die (or both).

Rainsford says that he is "at bay" because those are his choices -- he is cornered and now he can fight or die or both.  As it ends up, he fights Zaroff and kills him.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is the significance of of Rainsford's quote, "I am still a beast at bay," in "The Most Dangerous Game" by Richard Connell?

In Richard Connell's short story, "The Most Dangerous Game," we are presented with two hunters: of the two, one becomes the prey. The study of the main characters, General Zaroff and Sanger Rainsford, gives the reader a glimpse of the line that separates human beings from animals. In this story, Zaroff has turned his back on the mores of society so that he can hunt the "most dangerous game"—man—because he believes himself so superior to animals that pursuing them only bores him. Without conscience, he has hunted many men, excusing his behavior because these men were what Zaroff (ironically) considered less civilized than himself:

I hunt the scum of the earth—sailors from tramp ships...a thoroughbred horse is worth more than a score of them.

Soon after the stranded Rainsford meets General Zaroff, he not only learns that Zaroff hunts men for sport, but that if Rainsford will not join the game willingly, he will be hunted as the game.

Running for his life, Rainsford's background allows him to stay one step ahead of his mentally unbalanced "host." First Rainsford weaves a path he thinks is impossible to follow:

...only the devil himself could follow that complicated trail through the jungle after dark. But perhaps the general was a devil—

It seems so because Zaroff locates him...but pretends that he has not. In Zaroff's mind, the hunt would be over too quickly and the general has every intention of enjoying the sport of tracking one of the best hunters in the world: Rainsford. Abruptly, Zaroff leaves Rainsford alone:

The general was playing with him! The general was saving him for another day's sport! The Cossack was the cat; he was the mouse.

With this realization, Rainsford realizes what it is like for the hunted animal—the fear of capture and idea that Rainsford had rejected earlier in the story with a fellow traveler:

[Animals] have no understanding...The world is made up of two classes—the hunters and the huntees. Luckily, you and I are hunters.

By now, we can infer that Rainsford feels differently. All that concerns him is surviving—so, he must think like a hunted animal. His only advantage is that he can reason as a man. He uses all of his skills to elude Zaroff, his servant—Ivan—and the general's dogs. Rainsford uses the "Malay man-catcher," a Burmese tiger pit, and a "native trick he had learned in Uganda." He kills one dog and Ivan, but Zaroff keeps coming. Finally Rainsford escapes into the water off of a cliff, leaving Zaroff to think he has chosen death in the ocean instead; so he returns to his home.

Rainsford, however, is not dead; he makes his way back to the house. When he confronts Zaroff—much to the general's surprise—Zaroff congratulates him on a game he has won. Zaroff's guest reminds him that he is not who was when he arrived, but that he is still the hunted...who will by any uncivilized means, survive. Rainsford warns his pursuer:

"I am still a beast at bay," he said in a hoarse voice. Get ready, General Zaroff."

Rainsford is saying that he is as dangerous as any animal. Zaroff is delighted that they will continue—he is undeterred that Rainsford is not just a man he faces.

While Zaroff acts like the predator—like a wild animal rather than a civilized man (though he cannot see this), Rainsford has learned to think like an animal to survive; this is what he is saying when he calls himself a beast. And very quickly, Rainsford kills Zaroff.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on