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The Most Dangerous Game

by Richard Edward Connell

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What are the two interpretations of "The Most Dangerous Game" title?

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The title "The Most Dangerous Game" carries a dual meaning. First, it refers to the act of hunting "game" or animals, with the most dangerous being humans due to their ability to reason and potentially outsmart the hunter. Second, it alludes to a "game" or contest, in this case, the deadly contest between the hunter and the hunted. The hunted, Rainsford, accepts the challenge and manipulates the game's rules to his advantage, ultimately defeating Zaroff.

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The two meanings of “game” in the title are “play” and “hunted animal.”

The word “game” is used to refer to animals that are hunted.  For example, tigers, rhinoceroses, and bears are all game.  Rainsford is a big-game hunter and an author of books on hunting.  As expert as he is, he finds that Zaroff has something else in mind.

The Cape buffalo is not the most dangerous big game." He sipped his wine. "Here in my preserve on this island," he said in the same slow tone, "I hunt more dangerous game."

The game that Zaroff hunts is human beings.  They are the most dangerous of all game because they can reason.  An animal that can think has the potential to outsmart you or at least make the hunt more interesting.  This is why Zaroff has been capturing and hunting sailors and other dregs of society that will not be missed.

Part of the fun of the title is in the word play.  The double meaning of “game” is a wink at the reader.  A game, of course, is played between people.  Usually there are rules in a game that must be followed, and there is always a winner or a loser.  In Zaroff’s game, the loser dies.

"It's a game, you see," … If my quarry eludes me for three whole days, he wins the game. If I find him "--the general smiled--" he loses."

We know that Zaroff is enjoying the game because he toys with Rainsford, turning back to give him another day and make him feel more terror.  To make things even more interesting, Rainsford is a skilled hunter and wants to live more than anything.  He wins the game by outsmarting Zaroff and getting into his room.  Then he changes the rules by killing Zaroff, therefore really winning the game.

The surprise ending catches the reader even more unaware.  We might have wanted Rainsford to win, and Zaroff to lose, but we didn’t expect Rainsford to kill Zaroff.  It brings another moral quandary to the story.  Was he justified?  If he hadn’t killed the general, would the general have kept his word and played by the rules of the game, or would he have cheated and killed Rainsford anyway?  After all, he couldn’t let Rainsford go.  He would tell someone, and that would be the end of the game—in every sense of the word.

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"Game" means animals that are hunted. "Game" also means any contest engaged in for recreation, such as football or chess. In Zaroff's crazy world the most dangerous game (animal) is man because he has a brain and can think of ways to fight back. He can also devise weapons and man-traps. Zaroff regards the contest between himself and his human prey as a game (a playful contest). In Rainsford's case, he accepts it as a game to be played on Zaroff's terms and on Zaroff's island. Rainsford is really dangerous because he is just as experienced in such things as tracking and wilderness survival as the man hunting him.  Rainsford is also dangerous because he knows ways of making lethal traps for Zaroff, and he almost gets him twice before finally finishing him off in the end.

An interesting film adaptation of "The Most Dangerous Game" is available on DVD. The original film was made in 1932, but the photography, sound, and other technical aspects are very good for the period. The actor playing Zaroff has a hard time being convincing because it is such a slanted character--a sophisticated gentleman who enjoys killing humans for sport.

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The title "The Most Dangerous Game" has two significant meanings.  The first meaning comes from Rainsford's perspective; he is involved in the most dangerous game he has ever played as he fights for his own survival while being hunted. The second meaning comes from General Zaroff's perspective.  Game is a general term used for animals that are being hunted.  Zaroff, having hunted all types of animals, decides to hunt humans. He considers humans the most dangerous game because unlike other animals that act on instinct, humans are able to reason, making them a more difficult track and kill.

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The two meanings of the title "The Most Dangerous Game" are obvious to see as the story progresses.  The beginning of the story tells of the conversation between Sanger Rainsford and Whitney, a sailor.  They are talking about hunting animals and Whitney asks Rainsford about what the animal's feelings are when he is being hunted.  Rainsford is quick to point out that you are either a hunter or huntee and luckily, they are both the hunters.  But then the tables turn and Rainsford becomes the huntee so he can now relate to the fear of possible death when being hunted by Zaroff.  He has to think and have the instincts that an animal would when being hunted. 

Therefore "The Most Dangerous Game" refers to the game of hunting itself and game also refers to what is being hunted whether human or animal.  In either situation they are both Dangerous Games.

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Simply and succinctly, the double meaning of the title is that humans are the most dangerous "game animal" to hunt and that being the prey in a hunt is the most dangerous game to play. Rainsford is a renowned hunter, so hunting him will be a challenge for Zaroff, thus making the kill that much more of victory for him. Likewise, Rainsford must use his knowledge of the hunt and his tracking skills to avoid being killed, thus making it a dangerous game for him.

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The story opens with Rainsford's description as a hunter of wild game. He sees hunting as a sport between man and animal, a game between the hunted and the hunter. Rainsford doesn't think the animals feel anything about being hunted. It's a fun sport for people. When Rainsford meets Zaroff, this sport becomes a life-and-death game between two men. Rainsford, the hunter, becomes Rainsford, the hunted. It now becomes a game played for the highest stakes, and Zaroff has it rigged so he will win.

The author is making a statement about the violence and cruelty of hunting animals for sport. He puts a person in the place of the animal so we can imagine how the animal must feel being hunted. The title then reflects the "game" played between Zaroff and Rainsford, and it also reflects the author's theme that hunting isn't a game at all, and it means death for the animal.

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What is the double meaning of the word "game" in "The Most Dangerous Game"?

Yes, it's always fun when kids realize that the story's title has two meanings. Game refers to a word used to describe animals, and usually they realize or remember that while reading the story. There's also the other meaning of game, the game the two men are playing at. Students feel very clever when they realize this.
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What is the double meaning of the word "game" in "The Most Dangerous Game"?

I think the careful choice of title is one of the many strokes of genius in this excellent short story. The word "game" definitely operates on multiple levels, referring ironically to a "game" that children might play, but indicating how tragic and dangerous this game is, referring also to the most dangerous form of "game" on the planet - man, and also indicating the life-threatening battle of wits and skill that Rainsford and Zaroff undergo. Fascinating use of irony.

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What is the double meaning of the word "game" in "The Most Dangerous Game"?

How right everyone is about the multiple layers of meaning in this story. The most dangerous game is that which Zaroff is playing as he turns human beings into prey. And yet Rainsford becomes not just part of the game, but the most dangerous game Zaroff has ever hunted.

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What is the double meaning of the word "game" in "The Most Dangerous Game"?

I have always thought that the meaning of "game" in the title goes beyond the double meaning to perhaps include a third.  In the opening scene, Rainsford clearly states that he think hunting is the greatest sport (or game) in all the world.  However, once he becomes the hunted, he quickly sees that this is not a "game" at all.  That word just has such a light connotation; it fails to really capture the violence and terror in the hunt.  It is not until Rainsford becomes the hunted that he sees this and realizes that the "game" is really a "fight" for survival.

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What is the double meaning of the word "game" in "The Most Dangerous Game"?

An excellent question!  "Game" refers both to the macabre game General Zaroff plays when he hunts humans and to the human prey that he regards as game just as he regards the animals he has killed as game. The "most dangerous game" then is one in which humans are hunted for at least two reasons: human life is at stake, and human game is dangerous because humans are the only species that can reason; therefore, humans pose a greater challenge for the hunter. In Zaroff's case, his game with Rainsford proves to be deadly for the hunter this time. The hunted outwits the hunter and manages not only to survive but to kill his pursuer. The game is over for Zaroff.

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What is the double meaning in the use of the word "game" in the title of "The Most Dangerous Game"?

"The Most Dangerous Game" is certainly a title that has multiple levels of meaning. Ultimately, the word "game" here can be interpreted according to two separate definitions. It be used both in reference to a contest (in the way we might say baseball is a game), as well as to wild animals pursued in a hunt.

Thus, if we apply the first definition, "The Most Dangerous Game" refers to the hunt itself, by which Rainsford is being hunted by Zaroff. Meanwhile, the second definition can be applied to human beings. This is a point expressed by Zaroff himself, who has grown disillusioned with hunting big game animals, viewing them as insufficient challenges to his skills; thus, he hunts people instead.

Furthermore, however, there is actually a third layer of meaning: rather than it being the human species in aggregate, the term might also be in reference to Rainsford himself. After all, what could be a more dangerous opponent for an experienced big game hunter than another experienced big game hunter?

Thus, from these two definitions of the word "game," there arise three distinct layers of meaning. Each represents an entirely valid interpretation, in resonance with the story's themes and plot. But each, on its own, is also incomplete. It is only when all these various layers are brought together that the title's full significance and thematic meaning can be ascertained.

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What is the double meaning in the use of the word "game" in the title of "The Most Dangerous Game"?

The double meaning of the word game in Richard Connell's short story entitled "The Most Dangerous Game" pertains to both animals that are hunted and to a type of activity that involves challenges and winners and losers—"a sporting proposition," as General Zaroff describes it.

In the exposition of this story, Sanger Rainsford and his friend Whitney are aboard a steamer because they are going hunting "up the Amazon." As they anticipate their arrival in a few days, Whitney wonders how the jaguar will feel as it is hunted, but Rainsford has no sympathy for this animal: "Who cares how a jaguar feels?" For Rainsford, the jaguar is merely a game animal that is hunted. The irony of this insensitive remark is that he later becomes the game that is tracked by General Zaroff, so he experiences for himself the terror of a prey animal.

When Rainsford falls from the rail of the ship upon which he stood in the night after trying to determine the direction of the gunshots that he heard, he swims to the shore of what he later learns is Ship-Trap Island. The next day Rainsford follows the "print of hunting boots" to a huge chateau on a high bluff. There he is welcomed by General Zaroff and served an exquisite dinner. The general, who is a big game hunter and has hunted all over the world, tells Rainsford that he lives to hunt and, to keep his interest, he now hunts "more dangerous game." Later, Rainsford learns that this "game" hunted by Zaroff is men. The general tells Rainsford,

"Hunting had ceased to be what you call 'a sporting proposition.' It had become too easy."

Zaroff goes on to tell his dinner guest about his new "sporting proposition," or game: He now hunts men. Further, Zaroff informs Rainsford that the next day Rainsford himself will become this "game"/prey in a "most dangerous game"/Zaroff's sporting proposition.

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How does the story's title, "The Most Dangerous Game" have two meanings?

The first meaning of the title of Connell's classic short story relates to the actual game, which Sanger Rainsford and General Zaroff are participants in. The word "game" is being used to describe an activity that is being played or is considered a sport. In the first meaning, the reader is led to believe that the specific sport or competition will be hostile and threatening.

The second meaning of the title is a play on the word "game," which has a double meaning. The second meaning of the title uses the word "game" as something or someone being hunted as prey. The second meaning alludes to the fact that Sanger Rainsford is General Zaroff's most dangerous game or prey that he has ever hunted. As an expert hunter, Rainsford is a valiant opponent and the perfect match for the general.

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How does the story's title, "The Most Dangerous Game" have two meanings?

In one instance, the word "game" can mean a competition.  As it relates to the story, General Zaroff is playing a "dangerous game" in hunting humans.  Actually, hunting in itself is a dangerous "game" or sport.

In another use of the word, "game" can refer to an animal that is being hunted.  Small game hunters go after animals like rabbits or fox, while big game hunters seek elk, deer, or lions.  Rainsford could be "the most dangerous game" that General Zaroff has ever hunted.  Rainsford is himself a hunter, so he knows various traps he could set to keep Zaroff away from him.  Also, humans in general could be the most dangerous game because, unlike jaguars, humans can think and strategize.

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What are the two meanings of the title, "The Most Dangerous Game"?

The two meanings are based on the word "Game".  A game can be something played for enjoyment, or " animals under pursuit or taken in hunting; especially : wild animals hunted for sport or food" (see link below). 

Zaroff tells Rainsford "No animal had a chance with me any more.  That is no boast; it is a mathematical certainty. the animals had nothing but his legs and his instinct.  Instinct is not match for reason."(pg 5)  So Zaroff went in search of better game, and he found it.  He says "it supplies me with the most exciting hunting in the world.  No other hunting compares with it for an instant.  Every day I hunt, and I never grow bored now, for I have a quarry with which I can match my wits." (pg 6) That quarry is the only one that can reason; that quarry is man.  Since man can reason, he can match Zaroff's wits, and becomes the most dangerous game to hunt.

The second meaning is the game that is played.  Zaroff has decided to hunt Rainsford.  He tells him "You'll find this game worth playing".(pg8) Although Zaroff does not admit it at first, the game is to the death.  That makes it the most dangerous game.  Only one man survives.

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For "The Most Dangerous Game," examine the title of the story. What is the double meaning in the use of the word "game" in the title?

There is a double meaning to the word "game" in Connell's classic short story "The Most Dangerous Game." The first meaning of the term "game" is in regards to a quarry or prey, which is any animal or person being hunted. Both Rainsford and General Zaroff are expert big-game hunters. This means that they hunt large, dangerous animals. In the story, man is the most dangerous "game" because they are the quarry or prey. Unlike animals, which rely solely on instinct, humans can think, analyze, and reason, which is why the general finds it exhilarating to hunt them. Rainsford is the quarry or "game" and relies upon his experience and intellect to avoid and defeat Zaroff. Since he is an expert hunter, he is dangerous and poses a threat to the general.

In addition to the term "game" meaning quarry, it also refers to General Zaroff's maniacal, dangerous sport. In General Zaroff's "game," a defenseless person is given limited resources and is hunted for three consecutive days throughout Ship-Trap Island. The person being hunted must avoid and outwit the general to survive the "game." This "game" is dangerous because the person participating risks their life to survive.

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What are the two meanings of the title "The Most Dangerous Game" by Richard Connell?

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Interpret the title of "The Most Dangerous Game" in two ways.

To me, there are two ways to read the title.

First, you can say that Zaroff is playing the most dangerous game.  He is playing a "game" in which people end up dead and in which he himself is going to finally be killed.

Second, you can use the word "game" in the sense of animals that you hunt.  When you use the word in this way, the "game" is human beings.  Humans are the most dangerous game because, as Zaroff finds out, they can think and invent new ways to be dangerous even if they do not have sharp claws or teeth or anything like that.

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In "The Most Dangerous Game," what are the two possible meanings of the title?

"The Most Dangerous Game" is a title with two possible meanings.

First, "Game" is a word used to refer to animals that are hunted for sport or food. Since General Zaroff is bored hunting animals which cannot reason, he invents a new "game" to hunt, that of captured humans. Since humans can reason and make plans, they are more capable of avoiding and fighting a hunter than animals, which makes them a more "dangerous game."

Second, "Game" refers to a sport or activity. Zaroff's passion for hunting -- his preferred "game" -- has waned with boredom, and so he creates a new game. However, since this involves capturing and murdering innocent and unwilling participants, he cannot practice this sport on the mainlands, where civilization will reject his reasoning. Therefore, he moves his "dangerous game" to an island. His "game" is dangerous to him, because if he were caught at it, he would be convicted of murder and probably executed.

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What is the double meaning of the title "The Most Dangerous Game"?

Zaroff tells Rainsford that the most dangerous kind of game is man. In this sense of the word "game" is a general term for any kind of animal that is hunted. Zaroff also considers hunting humans a game in the sense of something to be done for amusement and also a contest. Rainsford comes to accept the life-or-death contest with Zaroff as a game that two can play. The game is dangerous for both men because they are both trying to kill each other. Rainsford is game to Zaroff because he is a dangerous animal to be hunted and killed.

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What different meanings does the word "game" have in the story, and what different meanings might the title "The Most Dangerous Game" have?

Richard Connell's "The Most Dangerous Game" plays upon the idea of the double entendre. A double entendre is one word which can be understood in different ways. The word "game," within the text and within the title itself, is used in two very different ways. First, the word game refers to a competition or sport which one must pay attention to rules and the end is defined through skill, luck, or strength. Under this definition, the hunting of Rainsford by Zaroff is considered a game. Zaroff, in a sense, sports with Rainsford (as seen when he calls out to him and leaves Rainsford until later). Another definition of the word game refers to Rainsford as the prey of Zaroff. Like a game animal (lions, cape buffalo or jaguars), Zaroff's hunting of Rainsford "turns" him (Rainsford) into an animal (figuratively). He, Rainsford, has become the prey of Zaroff. 

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